Gun bills move slowly

High-capacity magazines. Source: Wikimedia.

By Elijah Barela

Although state lawmakers have introduced several proposals that would limit high-capacity gun magazines, none is moving quickly with only three weeks left in the session.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her support for a host of gun-and crime-related bills at a press conference Jan. 25.

“No New Mexican, no mother or father, no grandparent should be worried about what the day looks like when their child goes to school,” Grisham said.

Supporters of gun-control measures say a ban would save lives. Large-capacity magazines are used in more than half of mass shootings and can cause up to 62 percent more deaths, according to a legislative analysis.

Although mass shootings in New Mexico are rare, in Albuquerque, homicides rose last year to 113, according to City of Albuquerque crime statistics.

But opponents disagree. “How is banning large magazines going to stop gun violence?” asked Albuquerque Police Department officer Reanna Torres. “It is only going to cause the price of gun ownership to go up and [cause] more crime in obtaining illegal weapons.” 

House bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, is a narrower plan that would make it a fourth-degree felony to possess or transfer a large-capacity magazine. 

The bill defines a large-capacity magazine as one that holds ten or more rounds of ammunition using any of a variety of mechanisms. A person convicted of the crime would face a basic sentence of 18 months in prison.

“I strongly support this legislation,” Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman told the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee Feb. 7. “You don’t need these huge magazines to hunt with, you don’t need these huge magazines to protect defend your home,” Bregman said.  

The committee did not vote on HB 50, instead advancing HB 101, which would make it a fourth-degree felony to buy or sell a variety of assault weapons or .50 caliber rifles, with exceptions for law enforcement officers and people traveling for shooting competitions.

The proposal, which would create an Assault Weapons Regulation Act, would allow people who already have the guns to keep them—under certain conditions and only if they fill out an affidavit proving they owned them before a certain date.

It survived a party-line vote in its first House committee Feb. 8 but hasn’t yet been scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee. It must pass there before being heard by the full House of Representatives.