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Background check bill heads to house floor

SANTA FE – A new version of the proposal to require background checks when people buy firearms online or in other private transactions is working its way through the House.

Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, introduced the amended version Friday during a committee hearing.

She described it as a move toward compromise – a narrowing of the bill from an earlier version that covered more transactions, such as lending a gun to someone temporarily.

But the amended version didn’t satisfy opponents. New Mexico sheriffs and other opponents said criminals generally get their guns by stealing them and won’t bother complying with a new law.

The amended version requires background checks in private sales or if the gun is changing hands for more than five days. In other words, you could lend your gun to someone temporarily, but giving it as a gift or selling it would trigger the requirement for a background check.

Licensed firearms dealers are already required to do a background check. Garcia Richard’s bill would apply to unlicensed sellers.

Her proposal cleared the Judiciary Committee on a 7-6 party-line vote and now heads to the House floor.

Joint session

Sheryl Williams Stapleton – the first black floor leader in the history of the New Mexico Legislature – presided over a joint session of the House and Senate on Friday for African-American Day at the Capitol.

Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, was elected House majority leader before this year’s session.

Lawmakers heard poetry, watched dancing and listened to a speech by the Rev. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., a former New Jersey secretary of state and senior pastor of a baptist church in Somerset, N.J.

He shared a story about learning as a child why his grandmother packed a chicken sandwich in a shoebox when the family traveled from New Jersey south to Virginia: They couldn’t stop to get food along the way because of their dark skin.

But she also told him through tears that it wouldn’t always be that way.

“I believe we become a better country when all of our stories are known by all of our people,” Soaries said. “The more we know each other’s stories, the more likely it is we can be the one people we declare we want to be.”

He urged lawmakers and others to stay hopeful, no matter their challenges.

“I’ve never had to pack my lunch in a shoebox once in my life,” Soaries said.

Dan McKay: