The 2019 New Mexico Legislature is diving into the national debate on gun control.
Four House bills and one Senate bill are being considered by the 2019 New Mexico Legislative session that many people characterize as unacceptable gun control legislation in total violation of US Constitution Second Amendment Rights to bear arms while others would characterize as a reasonable restrictions on gun sales.
The bills being considered by the New Mexico Legislature would expand the requirements for background checks to nearly every kind of firearms sale in New Mexico.
Among the New Mexico House Bills being debated are as follows:
House Bill 8: Would make it a crime to sell a firearm without conducting a background check. Federally licensed firearms dealers already must conduct background checks.
House Bill 40: Require any vendor at a gun show to conduct a background check before transferring a weapon to someone.
House Bill 83: Would allow family members or police officers to seek a court order to take guns temporarily from someone they believe is an immediate threat.
House Bill 87: Would prohibit someone convicted of battery on a household member, among certain other crimes, from having a firearm. People subject to a restraining order, in some circumstances, would also be banned from having a firearm.
HOUSE BILL 8 OPPOSITION
House Bill 8, which would make it a crime to sell a firearm without conducting a background check, is running into severe opposition from firearms instructors, ranchers and US Constitution Second Amendment protectionists. Elected County Sheriff’s from across New Mexico organized and turned out in force wearing their side arms to argue that House Bill 8 would be impossible for them to enforce. The Sheriff’s argued against the measure before the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee saying that it would do nothing to keep criminals from buying guns. Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace went so far as saying “This is a ‘feel good’ piece of legislation that provides no means of enforcement or mechanism to verify [if] a background check is conducted”.
House Bill 8 passed with a 3-2 vote along party lines, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. The Bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee for further review and debate before it reaches the House floor for a final vote. Senate Bill 8, another background check bill, has also moved out of the Senate Public Affairs Committee on a 4-3 vote.
WHAT THE FUSS IS ALL ABOUT
The biggest controversy surrounding the “background check” bills is that background checks would be required in the private sale of guns between individuals who know each other or even who don’t but desire to sell and buy a gun after a sale is advertised. There would be a few exceptions such as sales to law enforcement agencies.
Supporters of background checks for gun sales say it would a step toward keeping guns out of the hands of people prohibited from buying them, such as convicted violent felons or the mentally ill.
Opponents argue background checks are way too big of a burden on people who want to follow the law and entirely ignored by criminals or others who know they wouldn’t pass a background check. Opponents also argue that law-abiding gun owners would be penalized on private guns sales because they would have to pay federal gun dealers to handle the background checks adding an unreasonable amount to the gun sale.
The approximate cost of a background check by a licensed federal gun dealer is $45.
NM AND ABQ VIOLENT CRIME STATISTICS REFLECT EPIDEMIC
It has been reported that 400 New Mexicans get killed every year to gun violence. On Monday, September 24, 2018 the FBI released its “Crime in the United States” report providing the statistics on all the crimes reportedly committed in New Mexico and Albuquerque and in 2017.
Since 2010, violent felony crime rates and property crime rates have steadily increased in Albuquerque and in New Mexico statewide. According to the FBI report, the increase in crime in both New Mexico and Albuquerque continued in 2017. Statewide, New Mexico violent crime rates rose by 12 percent and property crime rates were up by 0.5 percent in 2017. The FBI reported that New Mexico had 16,359 violent crimes reported and 82,306 property crimes reported in 2017.
All the statistics for New Mexico and Albuquerque are in sharp contrast with national trends that crime is going down in the United States as a whole.According to the FBI report summary, in 2015 and 2016, violent crime had been increasing across the United States but in 2017, violent crime decreased 0.2% with the overall rate falling 0.9% percent.
In the United States as a whole, the property crime rates dropped for the 15th straight year, decreasing by 3% across the country. Nationally, the crime rate is 383 violent offenses per 100,000 residents and 2,362 property crimes per 100,000 residents.
Albuquerque’s violent crime and property crime rates are more than triple the national crime rates.On January 10, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal reported that New Mexico is number one 1 In fatal police shootings reporting:
“For the fourth year in a row, New Mexico placed either first or second in the nation for its rate of deadly shootings by law enforcement officers, according to the Fatal Force database created by The Washington Post.
In 2018, New Mexico ranked first in the nation, finishing the year with 20 fatal shootings by police officers around the state, a rate of 9.59 per 1 million people. Alaska had 7 total fatal police shootings was a close second, with a rate of 9.5 fatal police shootings per 1 million people. Connecticut had the smallest number of fatal police shootings with 0 reported.
In 2017, the state came in as No. 2, behind Alaska, but it was first in the nation in 2016. In 2015 New Mexico was in second place, behind Wyoming.”
ABQ’s MURDER RATE
In 2017, the city broke the all-time homicide rate of 70 with 72 murders and in 2018 there were 66 murders. In 2018, nonfatal shootings went up 4% from 470 to 491 shootings. There were 6 more murders in the first quarter of 2018 compared with 2017 which was a 50% increase. Non-fatal shootings for the first quarter of 2018 had a 0% change from 2017, but increased by +5% for the first half of 2018.
A total of 66 homicides occurred in Albuquerque in 2018.In March of 2018, 5 homicides were reported in just six days. In December, 2018, 2 police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours. In 2018, 45 of the killings, or 68% of the homicides, were from gun violence.
The 66 homicides in 2018 were a 12% decrease from 2017’s 75 homicides, but that number is still 8% higher than 2016 where 61 homicides were reported. The 2018 year-end, although down, is still one of the highest in recent history and does not include the seven fatal shootings by police. The 2018 murder figure does not include the nine police officer involved shootings that were determined to be justifiable homicides.
Although Albuquerque recorded its first drop in homicides in 2018, it still followed a dramatic spike in homicides over the previous 3 years.Albuquerque finished 2018 with a homicide rate of 11.82 per 100,000 people. In comparison, Tucson, Arizona with around 20,000 fewer people, tallied 53 homicides in 2018 for a rate of 8.78 per 100,000. El Paso, Texas, with around 130,000 more people, had 17 homicides for a rate of 2.46 per 100,000.
GOVERNOR’S AND ABQ’S RESPONSE TO GUN VIOLENCE
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to treat gun violence as an epidemic. Governor Lujan Grisham has said she wants the New Mexico Department of Health to study it as a health crisis.
During her campaign for Governor, Lujan Grisham suggested eight items, from supporting and passing legislation to strengthen background checks to requiring registered firearm owners to report lost or stolen guns.
During a December 27, 2018 press conference on crime statistics, APD Chief Michael Geier reported that there was also a flood of guns hitting the street as nearly 1,000 firearms were stolen from homes and vehicles from January to November in 2018. APD is working on a “comprehensive plan” to treat gun violence as a “public health crisis.” Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier said that APD plans to target gun violence by adding resources, investing in new technology and working with communities to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
UNITED STATES MASS SHOOTINGS
Since 1995, the United States has had 98 mass shootings, including seven of the 11 deadliest. Three of the 11 biggest mass shootings in American history have now taken place in the United States in the last year. There is no doubt we have a deadly mass shooting epidemic on our hands.
The mass shooting with guns in the last 10 years include: Orlando, Florida (49 killed, 50 injured), Blacksburg, Va. (32 killed), San Ysidro, Cal (21 killed), San Bernardino, (14 killed), Edmond Oklahoma (14 killed), Fort Hood (13 killed), Binghamton, NY (13 killed) Washington, DC (12 killed), Aurora, Colorado (12 killed), Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn (21 children and 6 adult staff members killed) and the largest mass shooting in this country’s history that occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada with at least 59 dead and at least 515 wounded and the Parkland/Stoneridge High School shooting that resulted in 17 children’s deaths.
The difference with the Parkland shooting and all the other mass shootings is that it finally ignited a national discussion on gun control with the March for Our Life’s movement, and it was the children of our county that said enough is enough.
SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS
The “right to bear arms” is not a right embodied or guaranteed in the original United States Constitution. Second amendment advocates ignore the fact that it just that, an Amendment to our US Constitution that was enacted and can be repealed or substituted by the will of the people. Our founding fathers knew that for a democracy such as ours to survive, it needed a process to allow government to be able to reflect changing times, grant human rights and allow the US Constitution to conform with changing norms and make corrections. Otherwise, we would still have slavery, women would not be able to vote and we would not be able to drink alcohol.
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declares that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”, it formally abolishing slavery in the United States, it was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.
Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote and it guarantees all American women the right to vote.
The Twenty-first Amendment (Amendment XXI) to the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which had mandated nationwide prohibition on the production and sale of alcohol on January 16, 1919 and the Twenty-first Amendment was ratified by the states on December 5, 1933.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is likely the biggest motivating factors compelling the New Mexico Legislature to enact some form of background checks is the mass shootings that have occurred over the last few years as well as the states high violent crime rates. Historically, New Mexico lawmakers have been very resistant to enacting any type of restrictions on gun ownership.
The resistance to restrictions on gun ownership no doubt can be traced to the “gun culture” history that is a part of a Western state such as New Mexico. The New Mexico Constitution has a specific provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms on your person and includes the vehicle you drive. The New Mexico Constitutional provision allowing the “open carry” of firearms is an affirmance of the Second Amendment to the United’s States constitution and the right to bear arms.
It is very common in rural New Mexico for people to carry firearms or have rifle gun racks in the back window of their truck. Hunting is as much of New Mexico’s Culture as is red or green chile.
With New Mexico and Albuquerque soaring crime rates, the time has come for the New Mexico legislature to take reasonable steps and mandate background checks on all sales of guns but they need to go even further. There are many legislative proposals, albeit too controversial for many who hold office to stomach, that need to be considered on a state level and on the federal level that could be proposed or enacted by our federal and state officials that will have more of an impact.
The New Mexico legislature should consider:
1.Repeal the New Mexico Constitutional provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms. This would require a public vote and no doubt generate heated discussion given New Mexico’s high percentage of gun ownership for hunting, sport or hobby.
2. Prohibit in New Mexico the sale of “ghost guns” parts. Ghost guns are guns that are manufactured and sold in parts without any serial numbers to be assembled by the purchaser and that can be sold to anyone.
3. Requiring in New Mexico the mandatory purchase of “liability insurance” with each gun sold as is required for all operable vehicles bought and driven in New Mexico.
4. Enact a gun violence restraining order and extreme risk protection process to temporarily prohibit an individual deemed by a judge to pose a danger to self or others, from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition and allow law local law enforcement to remove any firearms or ammunition already in the individual’s possession.
5. Restrict and penalize firearm possession by or transfer to a person subject to a domestic violence protection order or a person, including dating partners, convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.
6. Mandate the school systems and higher education institutions “harden” their facilities with more security doors, security windows, and security measures and alarm systems and security cameras tied directly to law enforcement 911 emergency operations centers.
7. Enact enhanced mandatory sentencing years of 5 to 10 years upon conviction of a crime using a gun without any provision of suspension of the enhance sentence and mandating the sentence to run consecutive to the sentencing in the underlying crime conviction.
When the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was enacted, the mode of transportation was horseback, flint locks were used to defend and wage war, no one could fly and all of mankind could only look to the stars in wonder and life expectancy was around 50 years old if you survived childbirth and if you were lucky and did not die of disease.
Today, our mode of transportation are cars and jet airplanes, our country defends itself with nuclear warheads and cruise missiles, the United States has gone to the moon and back more than once, and countries are exploring space and medical advances are allowing people to live into their nineties and organ transplants are common place. Sooner rather than later, gunpowder will be replaced by technology and no doubt Second Amendment advocates will want to hold a weapon of mass destruction in their hands like seen in Star Trek or Star Wars.
The millions of people who marched in Washington, DC during the 2018 “March for Our Lives” movement and in cities all over the country are clear proof just how upset voters are with the availability of guns.
On a federal level, the United States Congress needs to consider:
1. Implementation of background checks on the sale of all guns.
2. Close the “Charleston loophole” or “delayed denial” where federally licensed dealers can sell guns if three business days pass without FBI clearance.
3. Call for the update and enhancement of the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NCIS).
4. Institute mandatory extended waiting periods for all gun purchases.
5. Implement mandatory handgun licensing, permitting, training, and registration requirements.
6. Ban “bump-fire stocks” as was used in the Las Vegas mass shooting and other dangerous accessories.
7. Ban future manufacture and sale of all assault weapons and regulate existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act of 1934, and initiate a federal gun buyback program.
8. Impose limits on high capacity magazines.
9. Prohibit firearm sale or transfer to and receipt or possession by an individual who has: (1) been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor hate crime, or (2) received from any court an enhanced hate crime misdemeanor sentence.
10. Institute mandatory child access prevention safe storage requirements and prohibit the sales of handguns with “hair triggers”.
11. Provide more resources and treatment for people with mental illness.
12. Enhance accountability of federally licensed firearms dealers.
13. Implement micro stamped code on each bullet that links it to a specific gun.
14. Produce ‘x-mart guns’ with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) or biometric recognition (fingerprint) capability.
15. Limit gun purchases to one gun per month to reduce trafficking and straw purchases.
16. Prohibit open carry of firearms.
17. Digitize Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire (ATF) gun records.
18. Require licensing for ammunition dealer.
19. Call for a constitutional amendment to be enacted by the states to repeal the Second Amendment.
With the 2018 elections, it is clear the political landscape has changed in Santa Fe. Democrats returned to the Roundhouse State Capitol this year with increased strength. Democrats have increased their majority number in the state House and hold a majority in the Senate.
Democrats gained control of the Governor’s Office with the election of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham a longtime gun control advocate in Congress. During her State of the State address, Governor Lujan Grisham called on lawmakers to sign off on gun control measures. The New Mexico legislature needs to step up to plate and take steps to enact responsible gun control legislation, but more is needed to have any affect.
Background checks on all the sales of guns in New Mexico is a good first step.
For further commentary on mass shootings see: