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Proposal to check gun buyers will return

The time for Gov. Susana Martínez to sign or veto legislation of the 2013 session has come and gone. One bill missing from the stack of bills that she wished to sign was House Bill 77.

HB 77 would require federal background checks when people buy weapons from private sellers at gun shows in our state. Background checks currently exist at gun shows if you purchase a firearm from a licensed firearms vendor. HB 77 would close the private sale loophole at the shows thus keeping firearms away from individuals prohibited by federal law from owning a weapon. …

HB 77 also codified the mental and criminal adjudication reporting by our state to the FBI national criminal background check database. The feds were ready to release millions of dollars to our state because of this codification upon the passage of HB 77.

The most debated bill of the session was HB 77. Its cumulated floor and committee discussion time totaled approximately 17 hours. …

What made HB 77 survive two aborted near defeats in House and Senate committees? Sheer legislative maturity of turning a good original bill into a better bill, and then turning the better bill into a refined bipartisan initiative that even garnered support from Governor Martinez who promised to sign the measure if it got to her desk.

Republican Minority Whip Nate Gentry’s contribution to the mental health reporting aspect to HB 77, dropping the state’s role in conducting the background checks at gun shows by having federal firearm licensees do the checks, and eliminating the background checks on a private individual-to-individual sale were key components that gave the bill a healthy set of wings in the House in its journey to the Senate. This collective ownership of the bill, this bipartisan rewrite of the bill, this compromising nature to the bill is what gave it prestige and the opposition the jitters.

Why did HB 77 not pass the Senate floor? No one person is to blame. All the key players gave the bill its due course. . Chairman Jerry Ortiz y Pino heard it twice in the Senate Public Affairs Committee in order to address amendments to HB 77. It passed SPAC.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Martínez heard HB 77 into the midnight hour on March 14, passing it out of committee and on to the Senate floor. On the final day of the session, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sánchez called up HB 77 at 11:25 a.m. just seconds after the Senate passed the omnibus tax package, and with a looming sine die cutoff of noon.

Unfortunately, some Senate members chose to filibuster instead of debating the bill on its merits. With only 35 minutes rem aining it was evident that the 20 some amendments being proposed by a handful of filibustering senators, another hour and a half of debate would have been needed to weed out these frivolous and sophomoric amendments.

We were inspired by the closing statement of Senator Sánchez who stated, as the clock inched towards 11:59 a.m., that HB 77 was a crucial legislative initiative that merited real debate by the Senate, and not the political theatrical antics of a few legislators bent on denying the people of New Mexico a sound and sensible gun violence prevention policy.

Senator Sánchez further concluded that HB 77 will see the light of day on the Senate floor in the 2014 session and also stressed the need that Governor Martínez message the legislation next year complimenting its heroic accomplishment from a good original bill to a bipartisan and bicameral compromise measure that the overwhelming majority of New Mexicans relish.
— This article appeared on page 13 of the Albuquerque Journal