NRA sounds the alarm on New Mexico background check bill

The National Rifle Association warned Monday a universal background check bill stalled in the New Mexico Legislature could reappear “on short notice” after drawing the attention of the country’s most high profile gun control group earlier this month.

Everytown for Gun Safety detailed its investigation of online firearm marketplaces in New Mexico in a report released Feb. 8. Group investigators, who posted more than two dozen online ads for firearms as part of its examination, said one in 15 prospective buyers couldn’t legally own a gun due to criminal records — two-thirds of which still had active warrants or were either on parole or probation.

“This investigation shines a light on the way dangerous criminals in New Mexico take advantage of the background check loophole,” said Sarah Tofte, Everytown for Gun Safety Research Director. “The findings are clear: New Mexico criminals—including people convicted of serious violent crimes like domestic violence, attempted kidnapping and armed robbery—turn to online, unlicensed gun sales to arm themselves.”

House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, would require background checks for virtually all firearm transfers in the state, including the sort of internet transactions highlighted during Everytown’s probe.

Richard, who said she once bought a handgun from a stranger in a McDonalds parking lot, expressed concern about the ease of such private sales. “He seemed like a nice guy, but no names were asked, no IDs were shown,” she said earlier this month. “We simply looked at the gun, paid in cash and less than five minutes later we drove away with this gun.”

The NRA said Everytown, funded by former New York City mayor and staunch gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg, used their research to influence New Mexico lawmakers into supporting companion proposals — Senate Bill 48 and HB 50 — despite its restrictive and confusing language.

“They have falsely touted this as an effort to simply close the non-existent ‘gun show loophole’ when, in fact, the words ‘gun show’ are never even used in the proposed legislation and it is far more expansive than they would have you believe,” the association wrote in a blog post Monday. “The bills would criminalize nearly all private firearm sales between individuals, regardless of where those transactions take place, and require them to be conducted through a licensed dealer involving extensive federal paperwork, background check and payment of an undetermined fee.”

Violators of the bill could face a year in prison and up to a $1,000 fine, or both.

Lawmakers sent the proposal back the House Judiciary Committee “for more work,” earlier this month, the NRA said, noting it didn’t have enough votes to pass in its current form.

“These proposals will tax scarce law enforcement resources, cost law-abiding citizens time, money and freedom,” the NRA said. “And they will do nothing to stop criminals.”

Bloomberg bankrolled a ballot referendum in Nevada last year expanding background checks to private sales. The measure passed by less than 10,000 votes, with critics deeming it virtually unenforceable due to a technicality in the language of the law. Nevada State Attorney General Adam Laxalt issued an opinion in December reiterating as much and has yet to set an implementation date.