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A civil rights organization is banding with a local lawmaker to push for gun safety legislation after a recent shooting at an Albuquerque middle school left one 13-year-old dead and another charged with murder.
Harold Bailey, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Albuquerque, joined state Rep. Pamelya Herndon, D-Albuquerque, on Saturday to announce the drafting of the Bennie Hargrove Gun Safety Act.
Juan Saucedo Jr., an eighth grader at Washington Middle School, is accused of fatally shooting his classmate Hargrove during lunch break on Aug. 13. Authorities said Saucedo Jr. had taken the gun from his father.
Authorities are investigating whether the father will face charges in the case.
“Bennie was shot not one time, not two times, but six times. Could it have been prevented? The answer to that question is absolutely yes,” Herndon said during a news conference at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Albuquerque. “All we are asking is that individuals who decide and determine that they want to have control of a handgun, or any type of weapon, that you control it in a safe and secure manner. …
“Had that happened on that Friday afternoon … today we would not be here honoring the life of Bennie Hargrove.”
Herndon said the legislation, the specifics of which are still being worked out, seeks to charge anyone who does not secure their firearms with a fourth-degree felony.
Bailey said the NAACP is particularly concerned with parents or adults who do not secure their guns and those guns end up in the hands of children. He said there must be consequences.
“We have a problem here in Albuquerque and America: Our youth are becoming gangsters and killers at 12 and 13 years of age. We must address this phenomenon, consequences should be proportionate to the crime,” Bailey said, noting that Saucedo Jr.’s maximum possible sentence of eight years is “not enough.”
“Eight years is too generous for such a violent, ruthless and, apparently, premeditated killing,” he said.
Authorities say numerous children, school staff and others saw Hargrove fatally shot near the east end of the school near Downtown. Classmates told police Saucedo Jr. had shown the gun to others beforehand and Hargrove had tried to get Saucedo Jr. to stop bullying his friends when he was shot.
Hargrove’s mother, Collette Wise, clutched tear-soaked tissues and spoke briefly during the Saturday news conference, telling the crowd that the family is still hurting from the loss of Hargrove and wants justice to be served.