I am offended by the tactics that some of the sponsors, advocates and organizations backing these bills are using to push their unpopular proposals. It is bad enough that they have poured more than a quarter of a million dollars into our state over the past few months in an attempt to influence elections and legislation. Then, at the public hearing on HB50 before the New Mexico House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, it became more personal for me. The bill’s author, as well as her lead witness, both invoked the name of my late husband, Albuquerque Police Department officer Daniel Webster, to promote the measure. Along with the media, they continue to imply that had these proposed laws been in place, my husband’s death would have been prevented; in doing so, they actually remove accountability from the criminal who caused it. Focus must be placed on the individual who committed the horrific crimes. We, as a nation, have gotten too far removed from self-accountability and responsibility for one’s actions.
I am not okay with this, and I know Dan would not have wanted his name associated with this bill either. He was against expanded background checks of any kind and stood behind our Second Amendment rights with honor and appreciation. The idea of him having to go to a licensed firearms dealer, complete federal paperwork and pay a fee for a records check on his buddy at work or on my dad if he wanted to sell or loan a gun to either of them is not only ridiculous, but intrusive. He certainly did not believe this type of gun control would solve the larger problems in our communities.
Dan believed that tough-on-crime legislation, such as increased penalties and stiffer sentencing, would have the most positive effect on violence in our state. Even if some lawmakers disagree with this approach to crime control, he would have hoped they listen to our public safety experts and seriously examine existing laws before enacting additional gun control measures.
In April of 2013, PoliceOne conducted a national survey of active and retired law enforcement officers of all ranks and department sizes on the topics of gun and crime control. Nearly 80 percent said that a prohibition on private non-dealer transfers of firearms between individuals would not reduce crime. The New Mexico Sheriffs Association unanimously opposes HB50 and SB48 because they know these laws will be impossible to enforce and will not keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Most criminals get their weapons from the street or illegal sources, or they steal them – all unlawful acts. It is already a federal felony to sell or transfer a firearm to someone who is prohibited from possessing it. Under the existing background check system, almost no one is ever prosecuted on the rare occasion that they attempt to illegally purchase a gun from a licensed dealer. Expanding that system to private sales and loans of one’s personal property will only inconvenience law-abiding citizens who play by the rules and not the criminals who will ignore yet another layer of gun laws.
These gun control bills do not represent Dan’s beliefs or New Mexico’s love of freedom and respect for our Constitution, which he defended on the streets of Albuquerque and as a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran. This is not what he would have wanted for our state, because it would not make us any safer.
Michelle Carlino-Webster is the widow of APD officer Dan Webster, EOW 10/29/15.