SANTA FE — New Mexico legislators blocked a proposal to ban the sale of hollow-point ammunition and automatic firearms Monday as they raised questions about its legality.
The bipartisan rejection of the measure, Senate Bill 171, suggests Democrats — who hold large majorities at the Roundhouse — are narrowing down what gun restrictions will advance this session.
A proposal intended to require the storage of firearms away from children, for example, moved ahead Monday, shortly before lawmakers blocked the proposal to prohibit the sale of certain kinds of ammunition and firearms.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes, a Las Cruces Democrat and chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday he believes the safe storage bill is permissible under recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
But proposals to broadly prohibit “assault weapons,” he said, are on shakier ground.
He joined fellow Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee in supporting the safe storage legislation, House Bill 9, which would make it a crime to store a firearm in a way that negligently disregards the ability of a minor to access the gun.
“It may be one of the few guns bills we’re seeing that may withstand that (constitutional) scrutiny,” Cervantes said.
By contrast, Cervantes joined a mix of Democratic and Republican lawmakers who voted 6-3 to reject the legislation banning the sale of certain firearms and ammunition. It was tabled, meaning the proposal cannot advance unless lawmakers reconsider.
The legislation called for banning the sale or transfer of semiautomatic pistols with certain characteristics; automatic firearms, such as machine guns; short-barrel rifles and shotguns; and ammunition designed to explode or segment on impact.
“These are already highly regulated through federal law,” said Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, an Albuquerque Democrat who voted against the bill.
He also raised legal questions about the proposal.
New Mexico lawmakers this year are weighing a series of new restrictions on guns — including proposals to establish a 14-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms, a ban on guns at polling places and a ban on AR-15-style rifles.
Monday’s action in the Senate Judiciary Committee suggests the AR-15 ban will face skepticism if it makes it that far.
Cervantes made it clear that he disagrees with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions limiting gun laws. But he also acknowledged the legal landscape shaped by those decisions.
The safe storage bill passed the House earlier this month and will next advance to a second Senate panel.
Before passing it on, however, the Senate Judiciary Committee made changes to the bill, meaning it would have to go back to the House for agreement on the amendments, if it passes the Senate.