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Giffords promotes gun bills in Legislature

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords – who barely survived an assassination attempt six years ago – joined the debate Wednesday over gun proposals moving through the New Mexico Legislature.

Giffords, a Democrat who once represented a chunk of southern Arizona, visited the Roundhouse to lobby in favor of bills that aim to keep guns away from domestic abusers and require background checks on the sale of firearms at gun shows and in private transactions.

She also announced the formation of a new coalition in New Mexico, including prosecutors, gun owners and others.

“Stopping gun violence takes courage – the courage to do what’s right, the courage of new ideas,” she said during a news conference.

Giffords spoke slowly but firmly, and she sat down for part of the news conference. She remains partly paralyzed and has been treated for aphasia – a disorder that can make it difficult to find the right words or speak clearly, often the result of a stroke or brain injury.

“Be bold, be courageous,” Giffords said. “The nation’s counting on you.”

The New Mexico Coalition for Common Sense, which Giffords announced Wednesday, includes Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez, at least two ranchers, a representative of the NAACP and others. Their goal is to advance policies that “help keep guns out of the wrong hands,” according to a news release.

New Mexico is at the center of a national debate over gun control. Democrats reclaimed a majority in the state House and expanded their majority in the Senate ahead of this year’s session.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a New York-based group, says it spent more than $250,000 on New Mexico campaigns last year.

Robin Lloyd of Americans for Responsible Solutions, Giffords’ national group, said the new Democratic majority made it an opportune time to seek gun legislation in New Mexico.

The state is unusual, she said, in that a pair of significant bills are under consideration at the same time.

Working their way through the Legislature this year are:

• House Bill 50 and Senate Bill 48, similar bills that would require background checks on private sales or when someone lends a gun to another person for more than five days. Licensed firearms dealers already do background checks.

The House proposal made it to the floor before being sent back to committee for further consideration. Democrats and Republicans alike raised concerns about whether the bill went too far.

Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, said one potential point of compromise could be to focus the background check requirement on gun shows, online sales and flea markets – not the lending of a gun for more than five days or similar transfers.

• Senate Bill 259, which would require that people surrender their firearms if they’re the subject of a protective order issued by a court as part of a case of domestic abuse.

Catherine Mortensen, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said the background-checks proposal won’t actually make anyone safer. Criminals will just ignore the law, she said, and the proposal is opposed by sheriffs across the state.

“More gun control laws will cost New Mexicans time, money, and freedom and do nothing to make them safer,” she said in a written statement.

In 2011, Giffords was targeted in a mass shooting in Tucson. She was shot in the head, but survived. Six people died and 12 others besides Giffords were injured.