New Mexico House passes firearm storage bill named after middle school student

By: - February 10, 2023 4:45 am
Flowers, candles and balloons line a brick wall in memoriam of a middle school student killed by a fellow student. A person leans down to place more flowers.

Tereshia Brown pays her respects on Thursday, Aug. 19., 2021. Students, faith leaders and community members gathered to remember Bennie Hargrove, and left balloons and flowers near Washington Middle School in Downtown Albuquerque. (Photo by Lissa Knudsen / Source NM)

The New Mexico House of Representatives on Thursday passed a measure meant to prevent gun violence by young people using firearms that adult gun owners didn’t secure.

House Bill 9 sponsored by Rep. Pamelya Herndon (D-Albuquerque) 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.

The bill would create the Bennie Hargrove Gun Safety Act, named after a 13-year-old boy who was shot and killed in 2021 by another adolescent at Washington Middle School in Downtown Albuquerque.

The grandmother of the 13-year-old accused of shooting Hargrove said he brought his father’s gun to school in a backpack.

Representatives passed the measure in a 37-32 vote after three hours of debate on Thursday afternoon.

“This bill is about saving lives and protecting our children. If the gun used to take Bennie Hargrove’s life was properly secured, he would still be with us today,” Herndon said. “We can prevent school shootings and other senseless tragedies by holding adults accountable for negligently storing their guns.” 

Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque) said on the House floor the proposal is meant to prevent shootings like the one that took Hargrove’s life. She said Hargrove died doing the most honorable thing that any human being can do: standing up in the defense of someone else.

“He stood up in the defense of another child in that school,” she said. “He stood up in the hopes that he would be able to prevent violence from occurring. And he was caught, and his life was taken, for standing up. I think it’s time that this House of Representatives — that this Legislature — stand up and stand strong in the name of Bennie Hargrove, and that we have the courage to respond to our constituents.”

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.