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NM's Gun-Safety Advocates Keep Sad Statistics Front and Center

Twice as many people are killed by guns in New Mexico as in accidents involving drunk driving, and one group says more gun-safety education will change that. (NMPGV.org)
Twice as many people are killed by guns in New Mexico as in accidents involving drunk driving, and one group says more gun-safety education will change that. (NMPGV.org)
November 1, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. - New Mexico's Department of Public Health says 401 people in the state lost their lives to gun violence in 2016, and a group that wants to reduce that number thinks the state should put more resources toward the problem.

New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence annually tracks statistics on the issue, and compares the number of people killed by firearms with those killed by drunken drivers - that's 401 to 173. Miranda Viscoli, the group's co-president, said the state should spend at least the same amount of money educating people on gun safety as it does on discouraging driving under the influence.

"It's OK for a law-abiding citizen to have a gun," she said, "but right now, our laws are so weak that anybody can get a gun - I mean, in terms of the fact that you can buy and sell guns on the street 24-7 in New Mexico and nobody is stopping anybody."

The group worked with legislators in 2016 to pass a bill that would have kept guns out of the hands of domestic-violence offenders, but it was vetoed by the governor. Viscoli said they'll try again in 2019 to get a similar bill passed.

Of the gun deaths in the state last year, 85 were children, with nearly half as homicides and half as suicides. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence lists New Mexico among 10 states with the highest per-capita rates of gun deaths, including suicides.

Absent state funding, Viscoli said her group spends privately-raised money to host gun-safety events at schools, and offers parents who have firearms at home free gun locks.

"We're right now trying to get more gun locks to work with the Firstborn Program," she said, "so that new parents, when they go home with the diaper bag they get from the hospital and all the other stuff that's in that bag, it also has a gun lock and gun-safety information."

Overall, gun deaths in the United States have dropped by 30 percent since 1993, but there have been more mass-shooting deaths in the past 11 years than in the previous 23 years.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM