One year ago Wednesday, on Feb. 8, my family received news we never could have imagined. My 75-year-old mother, Ruth, and her friend had been shot and killed. My mother had taken a trip to visit her friend who lived in a retirement community. They were drinking coffee and reading the newspaper when strangers robbed them and took their lives in a single instant.
My mother’s death had ripple effects far beyond our own devastated family. My mother had impacted the lives of so many. She spent a long and dedicated career as a public school teacher in Albuquerque. When she retired, she found ways to give back large and small as a volunteer in the community. And she was an incredible mother and grandmother of eight grandchildren who miss her every day.
The pain of my mother’s sudden death sometimes feels too heavy to bear. There are days when it seems that the earth has shattered and time has stopped. And as the first-year anniversary arrives, I am filled with a deep sense of loss that she is not with us. We do not now, nor do we ever, want Mom to be a statistic or remembered for this horror. We want her to be remembered for the wonderful person she is and the ways she contributed to so many in our community.
On the anniversary this week, we’ve asked others to honor my mother through action. My husband and I spent Feb. 8 at the state Capitol in Santa Fe with members of the New Mexico chapter of Moms Demand Action and other fellow neighbors to call on legislators to pass Senate Bill 48/House Bill 50. The bill – introduced by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, and Sens. Richard Martinez, D-Española, and Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe – will address the glaring loophole in New Mexico state law that allows criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous people to obtain guns from unlicensed sellers with no background check, no questions asked. SB 48/HB 50 would close this deadly loophole by requiring a criminal background check for all gun sales.
Think about that for a moment. This loophole allows guns to easily change hands by allowing people to buy guns from unlicensed sellers – including strangers they meet online and at gun shows – without a simple criminal background check. But our state Legislature can take meaningful action to address this by supporting criminal background check for all gun sales.
Evidence shows that this bill will save lives. In states that close the loophole and require background checks for all handgun sales, there are 47 percent fewer women shot to death by intimate partners; 53 percent fewer law enforcement officers shot and killed; and 47 percent fewer people who kill themselves with guns.
Background checks have also received widespread support. Eighty-seven percent of New Mexico residents support them, according to a 2017 poll by Research and Polling Inc. Like many New Mexicans, my husband and I own guns and believe that there are common-sense solutions to keep guns out of dangerous hands while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners. We’re not alone. The same poll found 84 percent of New Mexico gun owners also support requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales.
This is not a partisan issue. My husband is a Republican county commissioner, Lonnie Talbert, who supports this bill. Elected leaders from both sides of the aisle have the opportunity to pass a law that puts the safety of their constituents first.
I am proud to know that on the first anniversary of mother’s death, I was surrounded by people honoring her by advocating for common-sense gun laws that could prevent other families from feeling the pain that mine has felt. Despite a heavy heart, that gives me great hope.