N.M. shown to have weakest gun laws

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By Hal Rhodes

Since the December shooting of 20 first graders and 6 teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., more states have enacted legislation weakening their gun control laws than have strengthened them.
New Mexico has neither weakened its gun laws nor strengthened them.
This, even though a 2012 overall state ranking of gun laws by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence found New Mexico to be one of 10 states with the nation’s weakest gun laws. And according to a report released earlier this month by the Center for American Progress, it also ranks among the 10 states with the worst rates of gun violence in America.
One and one still makes two, it seems.
At the 2013 session of the legislature, attempts were made in the Senate to beef up gun controls in New Mexico, perhaps the toughest proposal being an outright ban on the kind of assault-style weapons used to massacre those youngsters at Sandy Hook, and to kill 12 moviegoers and injure 58 others at a theater in Aurora, Colo., last July. The proposal also would have banned cartridges in excess of 10 rounds.
Both of those measures died in a Senate committee.
In the state House of Representatives, however, efforts to enhance gun safety in New Mexico fared considerably better with the passage of House Bill 77.
Sponsored by Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, House Bill 77 would have extended background checks to anyone purchasing, or attempting to purchase firearms at gun shows.
It would also have aligned New Mexico’s mental health and criminal conviction records with the federal system of instant background checks.
Garcia’s bill passed the House after six committee hearings and with the support of eight Republican House members and a pledge from Gov. Susana Martinez to sign the measure if it reached her desk.
Of all the gun control proposals in political circulation out there today, none enjoys wider popular support than the call for mandatory background checks for gun purchases.
A couple of weeks ago, the respected Quinnipiac University polling group released a survey showing a whopping 91 percent of those sampled favor background checks.
And there are sound reasons for that support. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent recently noted, there are still people who don’t realize that in some areas of the country, “criminals, severely mentally ill people and other high risk groups—like violent misdemeanants and people under a domestic violence restraining order—can get a gun without a check.”
Currently something of that sort is conceivable in New Mexico where certain gun sales transactions take place at gun shows.
It’s instructive, as well, to reflect upon data reported last month in the publication Mother Jones revealing that, of the weapons used by mass shooters in the United States between 1982 and 2013, 50 percent were semi-automatic handguns that were overwhelmingly purchased legally.
Bad things happen for want of stringent background checks at the time of gun purchases.
So, given all these considerations, why wouldn’t the state Senate do the right thing in the name of gun safety by approving Rep. Miguel Garcia’s bill and sending it to the governor for her signature?
Well, it did go to the Senate floor for a vote, but not until 35 minutes before the legislature was scheduled to adjourn.
It was ample time, the National Rifle Association gloated in a March 18 posting, for a cadre of New Mexico’s Senate Republicans “to force lengthy debate on HB 77 and offer amendments” until, at last, time ran out and “Lt. Gov. John Sanchez gaveled the session to a close …”
The NRA is not to be denied.