SANTA FE — A proposal to raise the minimum age to 21 to buy or possess a semiautomatic firearm stalled in a Senate committee Wednesday — unable to advance, but not necessarily dead.
Dueling motions to reject or pass the bill each failed on 4-4 votes.
The lack of a successful motion leaves the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it could be scheduled for another hearing, at the prerogative of the chairman, Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces.
But time is running out. Just over two weeks are left in the session.
Cervantes didn’t rule out rescheduling the bill. But he said the committee has so much work to do that it will have to “triage” what’s most critical to get to.
The tie vote was possible because of the absence of Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque. The Journal wasn’t immediately able to reach him Wednesday.
But Sen. Carrie Hamblen, a Las Cruces Democrat and sponsor of the bill, made clear she isn’t giving up.
She said she would make changes to the bill intended to secure broader support and would ask Cervantes to schedule it again.
“I’m heartbroken and tired of the gun violence in our country and our state,” Hamblen said as she listed off a series of shootings carried out by people under 21.
Republican lawmakers flatly opposed the legislation. They questioned whether it would survive a legal challenge, and they said the provisions limiting when a young person could possess the firearm were impractical.
“There are lots of issues I have with this bill,” Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, said.
The bill has exceptions that would allow someone under 21 to possess a semiautomatic firearm during hunter safety courses and legal hunting or trapping.
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, proposed a substitute version of the bill that would eliminate the proposed ban on possession and focus the prohibition only on purchases.
But his measure didn’t pick up support from any other member of the committee.
Ultimately, Ivey-Soto joined the panel’s three Republicans to oppose the bill.
The measure is one of the legislative priorities of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who described it as a “must have” in the package of firearms restrictions lawmakers are crafting.