New Mexico lawmakers push forward with proposed 14-day wait for gun sales - Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico lawmakers push forward with proposed 14-day wait for gun sales

In this Feb. 7 file photo, Miranda Viscoli of New Mexicans Against Gun Violence and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, answer questions about a bill to create a 14-day waiting period to purchase guns. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — Legislation to establish a two-week waiting period for gun sales is heading to the full House of Representatives after narrowly advancing Friday through a critical committee.

Supporters of the bill — sponsored by Democratic state Reps. Andrea Romero and Linda Serrato of Santa Fe — said it would provide a cooling-off period to reduce suicide.

They also highlighted research from the Rand Corp., a nonprofit think tank, finding “moderate evidence” that waiting-period laws reduce homicides.

“This is meant to be a reasonable time frame,” Romero said of the 14-day wait to complete a firearm purchase.

But Republican lawmakers and other opponents said the bill would burden law-abiding gun owners without effectively addressing crime or suicide.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 6-4 along party lines to endorse the bill, sending it on to the full chamber. If approved by the House, it would go to the Senate.

A companion measure — banning AR-15-style rifles, among other semiautomatic firearms with certain characteristics — wasn’t acted on Friday. Romero said she was preparing technical amendments that wouldn’t substantively change the proposal.

The waiting-period legislation, House Bill 100, would prohibit transferring ownership, possession or control of a firearm earlier than 14 days after the submission of forms for a background check.

Five states already have waiting periods for the purchase of all firearms, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, ranging from three to 14 days. In addition, some states have waiting periods only for certain types of firearms.

Dana Middleton of the National Organization for Women said the proposal would be a step in the right direction for a state with a high rate of gun deaths.

“Every little thing we do on that path has to help,” she said.

Omni Arms store manager Jake Meldones waits as an Albuquerque customer handles a rifle in July 2015. A Roundhouse proposal would create a waiting period for firearm sales. (Roberto E. Rosales/JAlbuquerque Journal)

Republicans, by contrast, said the 14-day waiting period could harm someone who needed a gun more quickly for self-defense. Mental health programs and other strategies, they said, are better suited for addressing suicide.

“If I’m going through a domestic violence situation, and I need that gun immediately, I could have to wait 14 days to protect myself,” Republican Rep. Andrea Reeb of Clovis said. “Their lives are just as important as the lives of the people you’re trying to save.”

House Minority Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, said many people buying a gun already have one at home, undercutting the argument that a 14-day waiting period would meaningfully reduce access to firearms.

“I think we have to have good solid data to justify limiting someone’s fundamental rights,” he said.

The Attorney General’s Office reported to lawmakers that if the law were challenged in state court, legal arguments might center on the reasonableness of a 14-day wait regardless of how soon the background check result is available.

The state Department of Health reported New Mexico had 479 firearm-related deaths in 2020 — 63% of which were suicides.

The waiting-period legislation is among a host of proposed gun restrictions working their way through the Roundhouse.

Two bills — one prohibiting firearms at polling places, the other focused on safe storage — have cleared at least one chamber of the Legislature so far.

Proposals to raise the age limit to 21 for the purchase of some firearms, prohibiting straw purchases for someone who can’t buy a gun on their own and banning the sale of certain firearms and ammunition are still pending in legislative committees.

Any bill that fails to make it through both chambers by noon March 18 is dead.

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