Lawmakers in New Mexico’s House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to close the gun show ‘loophole,’ moving forward all gun show transactions even those made between private buyers and sellers (non-FFLs) will be subject to a background check.
The House approved HB 77 by a vote of 43-26, and now the bill will head to the Democratic-controlled Senate for a vote. Not only is it expected to pass there, but Republican Gov. Susan Martinez, a longtime champion of gun rights, has said she will sign what she called the “common-sense compromise” into law.
“She does not believe there should be a loophole where felons or the mentally ill can avoid a background check by purchasing a firearm at a gun show,” Enrique Knell, the governor’s spokesman, told the Albuquerque Journal.
In its initial draft, HB 77 would have mandated universal background checks for all gun sales regardless of whether one was at a gun show or not, i.e. those made over the Internet, those made between friends at a residence, etc. However, after negotiations lawmakers settled on gun shows exclusively.
If the bill does pass, every gun show will be required to have an FFL on site that can process checks for private buyers and sellers.
There are exceptions. Those with a valid concealed carry permit or individuals who are purchasing antiques, replica weapons that do not use cartridges (muzzleloaders) would not be subject to a check.
Supporters of the bill argued that HB 77 is a reasonable proposal that does not subvert the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
“I’m a firearms owner and the times I’ve had to undergo a background check it took less than five minutes for me to get that check done,” state Rep. Bill McCamley (D- Mesilla Park) told Reuters. “We’re not talking anything onerous or a blockade of anyone’s rights.”
Opponents, on the other hand, contended that it is a futile attempt at fighting crime and an affront to one’s right to keep and bear arms.
Rep. Dennis Roch (R-Texico) called it “a crime prevention bill that has absolutely no chance of preventing crime.”
“Hammers are used to kill people, and so are kitchen knives,” he told the ABQ Journal, “so why not require background checks at hardware shows or plug the ‘bridal show loophole’?”
While the gun show ‘loophole’ aspect of the bill remains controversial, another part seems to have widespread, bipartisan support. That is, the provision to ensure that FBI criminal convictions and mental health adjudications are being reported to NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Looking ahead, one shouldn’t be surprised to see other states following suit. Whether gun owners like it or not, closing the gun show ‘loophole’ is the path of least resistance when it comes to gun control reform. With a large part of the country desperate to do something (anything, even if it’s ineffective) in the wake of Sandy Hook, background checks present the most politically viable solution. In short, it’s a way for politicians to say that they ‘did something’ to curb gun-related violence.