Bennie's Bill would criminalize negligently making a firearm accessible to minors. (Photo by Stephen Chernin / Getty Images)
Gun safety legislation is on its way to the governor’s desk for a signature.
Bennie’s Bill, which would make it a crime for allowing a firearm to be accessible to a minor, passed with concurrence through the House by a vote of 34-28 on Wednesday evening.
The bill was named after Bennie Hargove, a middle school student whose classmate fatally shot him in 2021 using his father’s gun.
This bill would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to negligently have a firearm be accessible to a minor, and a fourth-degree felony if the minor who uses the gun significantly harms another person or themself.
There’s a list of exceptions, including if the gun was kept in a locked container, securely stored or in an inaccessible location; if a firearm was used in self-defense; or in the case of an illegal entry on someone’s property.
A Senate amendment included in the bill that passed from Sen. Steven Neville (R-Aztec) last week added an exception that would allow a minor to use a firearm for hunting, recreationally or any other lawful purpose.
Rep. Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park) asked repeated questions about the extent and technicalities of this clause.
Rep. Pamelya Herndon (D-Albuquerque), the bill’s sponsor, went back and forth with her colleague about the amendment before she said Neville could better explain the proposal.
However, Sen. Neville wasn’t present at the House floor meeting.
“I’m actually trying to get honest answers so when I go home and explain this, I want to make sure that none of our parents are committing a crime,” Lord said. “I don’t want that to happen.”
Lord asked if she should just wait for Neville to come to the House floor. In response, House Speaker Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque) told someone to call Neville.
Martinez recommended that Lord continue with her questions and reminded the representatives that the bill still has to be signed by the governor and will take several months to even become law.
“We’ve got plenty of time to get a one-pager from the senator as to the technical aspects of this amendment,” Martinez said.
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