New Mexico lawmakers are considering a slate of gun policy reforms during the 2023 legislative session. Some of the measures have begun to make their way through the Roundhouse. (Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images)
As the U.S. grapples with gun policy in the face of mass shootings and gun violence, state lawmakers are also weighing several reforms that have begun moving in the Roundhouse.
A panel of House lawmakers in New Mexico on Tuesday afternoon passed two proposals that would create a waiting period before someone has a gun in-hand when they buy one, and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. In D.C., senators introduced a similar measure on magazines at the federal level on Tuesday, too.
The votes in the N.M. House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee fell along party lines.
Republican lawmakers and 10 members of the public opposed the bill to create a two-week waiting period for gun sales and the ban on assault weapons on the grounds that they seek to criminalize the use of firearms and take away the rights of “law-abiding citizens.”
They also argued that the bills should be struck down because there are not enough police in New Mexico and police response times are too slow.
Still more opponents, who packed the hybrid hearing both online and off, said both proposals would violate the Second Amendment and, if enacted into law, would face constitutional challenges in court.
Deborah Marez-Baca, a volunteer with the New Mexico chapter of Moms Demand Action, said the two-week waiting period and weapons ban would give New Mexicans protection “by taking these weapons of war off the streets.”
“Twenty-two states have waiting periods prior to possession of a firearm after purchase,” Marez-Baca said. “Nine states already prohibit assault weapons, and 14 states prohibit high-capacity magazines. New Mexico should join with these in passing these lifesaving and foundational gun safety policies.”
Two-week waiting period
The committee passed House Bill 100, which would make it a misdemeanor to sell a firearm earlier than 14 days after a federal background check of the buyer.
The bill is meant to close a gap in federal law called the “Charleston loophole” that allows gun dealers to sell a firearm before a background check is completed, creating an opportunity for people otherwise prohibited from possessing a gun to buy them anyway.
HB 100 is sponsored by Reps. Andrea Romero and Linda Serrato, both Democrats from Santa Fe.
Romero said the two-week waiting period is meant to allow anyone seeking to harm themselves and others to have time to cool off before they have a firearm in-hand.
“This is a community safety bill that basically is looking to ensure that we’re closing a loophole on those who, unfortunately, are still able to access guns with our background checks in place,” Romero said.
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Rep. Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park) said HB 100 would not prevent someone from going to neighboring Texas or Arizona and buying a weapon there.
“There’s no way to stop anyone from buying guns on the black market, or having access to anything, because we have a wide open border,” Lord said.
Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo) said HB 100 would make victims of domestic violence more vulnerable because it would make them wait to buy a gun to defend themselves.
“We already have 30, 40-minute waiting periods for police officers in Albuquerque,” Block said. “You can’t go waiting around for these people. You need those firearms now.”
The legislation still needs to make it through one committee before it can go to a vote in the state’s House of Representatives. It will likely be heard next in the House Judiciary Committee.
Ban on ‘assault weapons’ and large magazines
The committee also passed House Bill 101, which would make it a fourth-degree felony to possess, manufacture, buy, sell or transfer:
- A magazine that holds more than 10 rounds
- Most semi-automatic rifles
- Pistols that can hold more than 10 rounds
- Shotguns that can hold more than five rounds
- Conversion kits or parts that, when combined, would form any of the above
HB 101 is also sponsored by Romero and Serrato.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman supports a similar proposal that lawmakers are merging into HB 101. He told the committee high-capacity magazines significantly increase a shooter’s ability to quickly injure and kill large numbers of people because they enable someone to fire repeatedly without reloading.
“We’ve got to start at some point,” Bregman said. “You don’t need these huge magazines to hunt with. You don’t need these huge magazines to defend your home.”
Like the two-week waiting period measure, HB 101 also needs to go through one more committee before it can go to a vote in the House of Representatives. It will likely be heard next in the House Judiciary Committee.
Permitless concealed carry
N.M. lawmakers also struck down a third measure on Tuesday that would have allowed permitless concealed carrying of a firearm.
The committee voted to temporarily table House Bill 164, which would have allowed any adult to carry a loaded firearm, either concealed or openly, without having to get a permit as long as they can otherwise legally possess a gun.
When a committee temporarily tables any bill, it can reconsider the proposal if a majority of the committee members vote to take it up again.
HB 164 is sponsored by Block, Lord and three other Republicans.
Block said gun owners must not be saddled by burdensome red tape to exercise their constitutional rights, “while criminals who do not follow laws are allowed to run roughshod over our communities.”
“This bill will break New Mexicans free from an administrative burden of having to apply for and receive a concealed carry license while saving the state millions of dollars in administrative costs,” Block said.
Janet Williams, president of the Santa Fe chapter of the National Organization for Women, opposed the bill and said if one needs a permit to drive, they need a permit to carry a concealed gun. A representative of the Santa Fe branch of the NAACP told the committee it is easier in many cases to get a firearm in New Mexico than it is to get a car or adopt a dog.
Barbara Chatterjee, a retired injury prevention specialist, opposed the bill because she thinks it opens up access to firearms in public places “where we already have too many that we don’t know that are there.”
Keeping guns from children
House Bill 9 would make it a misdemeanor to negligently allow a child access to a firearm, and would make it a felony if that negligence resulted in someone dying or suffering great bodily harm.
Lawmakers have tried and failed in recent years to pass such legislation, but it gained momentum again after a 13-year-old student was shot and killed by another adolescent as classmates watched at Washington Middle School in Downtown Albuquerque in 2021.
HB 9 was set for a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, though it’s been on the calendar for days without a vote.
The House again went into recess on Wednesday without taking up the legislation.
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