As many have predicted, gun control will be an issue discussed in the upcoming legislative session.
Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, announced Friday that he will introduce a bill that would require background checks on anyone purchasing guns at gun shows or in private transactions.
Garcia said his bill is meant to stop convicted felons and the mentally incompetent from purchasing guns. Current law requires background checks for people trying to buy guns from licensed dealers. But there is no such requirement for those buying guns from others selling guns.
“Our Wild West days are over,” the Democrat told reporters at a Capitol news conference. “Our no-questions-asked days are over.”
Garcia said his bill “will help curb the flow of readily available guns and assault weapons to individuals most capable of inflicting needless injury and fatality to our unexpecting, innocent and law-abiding residents in New Mexico.”
Since last month’s shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., in which a man with mental health issues gunned down 20 children and six adults in an elementary school, there has been an emotional national debate over gun control. Much of the discussion has been over how to keep guns out of the hands of the unstable.
Garcia conceded that he will have a tough time passing the Legislature and getting it signed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
A spokesman for Martinez said the governor hasn’t seen Garcia’s bill. “It’s something that we’ll obviously look at. We understand that part of Rep. Garcia’s bill addresses keeping weapons away from people who have been found to be mentally ill."
Martinez, spokesman Enrique Knell said, plans to introduce legislation "to make sure the state is properly reporting information to the FBI about individuals found to be mentally ill by a court.”
Steve Aikens, a Clovis firearms instructor who frequently testifies before the Legislature on gun issues, said he would oppose a bill like Garcia’s, saying it would infringe upon people’s rights to handle their property and guns.
“That’s outside of our constitution,” Aikens said. “Bills like that are well-intentioned but not well thought out.”
Garcia said his bill wouldn’t apply to parents buying guns for their children. The bill would give immunity from liability to gun sellers “who followed the rules.”
The Department of Public Safety would be responsible for conducting the background checks. The fee would be $35 for sales at a gun show and $25 for other private transactions. Failure to conduct background checks would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Garcia said he hadn’t yet calculated the cost of the proposed law.
In recent years, the Legislature has been more inclined to expand gun rights rather than restrict them.
A decade ago, lawmakers passed a law allowing people to have concealed-carry licenses and have since amended that law to allow license holders to carry guns into restaurants with beer-and-wine licenses.
More in tomorrow's New Mexican.
The draft of the bill is below
Gun Show Bill Draft