New Mexico lawmakers to consider potential gun control proposal

Sheriffs from across New Mexico attend a Senate Public Affairs Committee hearing at the state Capitol on Jan. 31. The group opposes a bill that would expand background checks for gun sales. (Photo: Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Sheriffs from across New Mexico attend a Senate Public Affairs Committee hearing at the state Capitol on Jan. 31. The group opposes a bill that would expand background checks for gun sales. (Photo: Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The New Mexico state House Judiciary Committee scheduled a public hearing Saturday to consider House Bill 548 — a “dummy bill” the National Rifle Association warns will be stuffed with language regulating guns.

Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, sponsored the bill Friday. Her original proposal, House Bill 50 — which would require background checks for virtually all firearm transfers in the state — stalled in the committee last month. With just a week of session remaining, HB 548 could be Richard’s last chance to revive the measure, according to the NRA.

Richard, who said she once bought a handgun from a stranger in a McDonald’s 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 for Gun Safety, funded by former New York City mayor and staunch gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg, used its research to influence New Mexico lawmakers into supporting HB 50 and its companion proposal, Senate Bill 48, despite its restrictive and confusing language.

Everytown detailed an 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.

The NRA argued Friday, despite waning support, Richard and other bill proponents haven’t given up.

“It (HB 50) has languished there for over a month,” the association said in a blog post Friday. “But we noted how desperate the advocates for HB 50 are to pass anything and warned you that the language in the measure could be watered-down in an attempt to muster the votes to pass it late in the session or amended into another bill altogether.  It looks like that’s the route they plan on taking in hopes it will fool you or unsuspecting lawmakers!”

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.