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Bills would ban 3D-printed guns, revise red flag law

Jesus Saiz, from Las Vegas, carries a rifle as he takes part in a gun rights rally outside the Roundhouse in Santa Fe last year. The Capitol is closed to the public this year as lawmakers take up firearms legislation. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — New Mexico legislators on Tuesday plunged into their first big firearms debate this session as a House committee took up proposals to revise the state’s red flag law and ban the making of guns with 3D printers.

The 3D-printing proposal passed on a 3-2 vote and must clear two more House committees before it can reach the House floor.

Lawmakers took no action on the red flag bill, but they accepted public testimony and scheduled it for consideration Saturday.

Tuesday’s online hearing ignited familiar arguments, but in a new format.

Rather than gun owners rallying outside and carrying their firearms into the Roundhouse, the debate played out over three hours on the Zoom webconferencing program, with people raising their digital hands and taking turns speaking for 1 minute each.

Lawmakers are doing much of this year’s work online, as the Capitol is closed to the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opponents of the firearms bills — who made up a majority of the audience, according to an online poll conducted during the meeting — repeatedly accused Democratic lawmakers of pushing to infringe on Second Amendment rights and enact laws that criminals will just ignore.

“It’s just another slap in the face to the law-abiding citizens of New Mexico,” Harding County rancher Joe Culbertson said of the 3D-printing bill.

Supporters, in turn, cited New Mexico’s high rate of gun deaths and urged legislators to update state laws to protect public safety.

Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, told lawmakers that 3D printers could be used to circumvent prohibitions on gun possession by domestic violence offenders or children, creating weapons without a serial number.

“Ghost guns are untraceable. … Many have been used in mass shootings,” Viscoli said.

The proposal targeting 3D-printed guns, House Bill 166, would make it a misdemeanor to use a three-dimensional printer to manufacture a firearm without a federal license or share digital instructions on how to make a gun with a printer.

Rep. Tara Lujan, a Santa Fe Democrat and sponsor of the proposal, described it as a necessary update to state laws.

“This is an unregulated area that we’re trying to bring into the day and age we live in now,” Lujan said.

The proposal drew opposition from agricultural groups, public defenders and ordinary gun enthusiasts. They said it would interfere with hobbyists, the crafting of replacement parts for firearms and the constitutional right to bear arms — all without actually doing anything to address crime.

“This bill does nothing to make New Mexico safer,” Rep. Randall Pettigrew, R-Lovington, said.

House Bill 166 narrowly passed the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee and moves next to the House Judiciary Committee. If approved there, it would go to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

The red flag proposal, House Bill 193, would revise a law passed last year allowing for the court-ordered seizure of guns from individuals deemed an imminent danger to themselves or others.

One of the changes would add law enforcement officers to the list of people who can request the filing of a petition under the act, if the officer personally has probable cause to believe someone is an imminent danger. Under the existing law, officers respond to information provided by a family member or similar “reporting party” rather than act on their own.

Only four extreme risk petitions have been filed since the 2020 law went into effect May 20.

Rep. Daymon Ely, a Corrales Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said this year’s proposal is a “surgical approach” to making the law work better.

A third firearms proposal, Senate Bill 224, sponsored by Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, has been introduced but not yet heard by a committee. It would make it a crime to fail to properly secure a firearm against unauthorized use.

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