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NM House Introduces Gun Bill

February 4, 2013

SANTA FE, N.M. - New Mexico State House Bill 77 covers eight conditions that would determine a person's eligibility to own or possess a firearm. Sponsored by Rep. Miguel Garcia (D-Bernalillo), it was stalled by a tie 8-8 House Judiciary Committee vote last week. It may still come up for a vote during the 2013 legislative session, however. The bill has support high up in the capital city administration.

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss described some recent cases where background checks could have made a real difference.

"I've been to the memorials for a young woman and her father who were just murdered by an angry boyfriend with a gun that he shouldn't have had," Coss said. "Last spring, I was talking to the widow of a young man that just came home at the wrong time and was murdered in his own house by a heroin addict."

The National Rifle Association objected to the bill on policy grounds, but Coss and Santa Fe's police chief continue to support it.

Garcia is expected to resubmit the bill with an amendment to take out the registry for firearms owners. He believes this would make it more acceptable to those who originally opposed it. There is no word yet on when the bill will be re-introduced.

Coss said that despite his optimism that a background check law would make a difference, he did not expect to see results right away.

"It won't change anything immediately, because we've been mass-producing and mass-marketing guns with 40 percent of them not going through any background check for decades now," he said. "But I believe we have to change."

A state-sponsored background check bill, along with the gun legislation the Obama Administration is pursuing at the federal level, can begin to change the way American society is affected by gun violence, Coss added.

Santa Fe Police Chief Raymond Rael said House Bill 77 does not necessarily have to infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. He compares it to other activities in which New Mexicans commonly engage.

"We don't purchase a car and then drive a car without some licensing, some mechanism to ensure that not only are owners capable of driving that vehicle, they're qualified to do so."

The current version of HB 77 is available at http://1.usa.gov/XMazBY.

Renee Blake, Public News Service - NM