Gun Control Measures Proposed By NM Senator Martin Heinrich, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber; Efforts Will Likely Fall Short; NM Legislature Should Enact Comprehensive Gun Control Act During Special Session

NM Sen. Martin Heinrich, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Santa Fe Mayor Allen Weber are now all getting into the act of proposing changes to gun laws on a National, State and City levels. This blog article explores all 3 efforts at gun control and advocates the New Mexico Legislature enact comprehensive gun control legislation.


In October, a gunman in Lewiston, Maine, went on a rampage and killed 18 people in a mass shooting while using a high-capacity, semi-automatic rifle that had been modified rapid fired shooting. Police found a high-capacity, semi-automatic AR-10 rifle made by Ruger in the car of the Lewiston gunman.  the gunman had reportedly duct-taped two large-capacity magazines together so that when one was depleted, he could quickly flip to the next magazine.

After an intensive manhunt that lasted a full week, the mass shooter was found dead from self-inflicted gunshot wound. It turns out the shooter had an extensive history of mental disorder and hospitalization.  the Lewiston gunman reportedly spent two weeks in a psychiatric hospital in New York and was banned by his U.S. Army Reserve unit in Maine from possessing military weapons because of his increasing paranoia and aggressive behavior. His family also expressed concerns about his deteriorating mental health and access to guns.

On November 30, caused in part by the mass shooting, Maine Independent Senator Angus King announced the introduction of a Senate Bill that if it becomes law would regulate rifles and shotguns.  New Mexico’s Senior Democrat Senator Martin Heinrich is cosponsoring the bill. King and Heinrich have worked together on similar bills for years. In addition to Heinrich, the bill has two other co-sponsors so far: Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Michael Bennett of Colorado.

Senator Angus King said this about the legislation:

“If I had any doubts [about this legislation], they were resolved by what happened [in my state of Main].  … The shooter in Lewiston had a high-capacity magazine, duct-taped together, that could be [quickly reloaded]. That’s what would be prohibited by this law.

 “The key is the lethality of the weapon. … How do you make it less dangerous? Not what it looks like, but how do you make it less dangerous? The key here is in the midst of a mass shooting, it’s when the shooter needs to re-load that there’s an opportunity either for people to escape or for first responders or for people in the room to disarm the shooter. … But if there’s not lapse in the firing, that can’t happen.  My goal straight up is saving lives. We believe that the legislation we’re proposing today will do exactly that.

We were very careful to craft this pragmatically to stand up to the Supreme Court we have today. … We reviewed all of the  appropriate case law and tried to stay on the safe side of that line. And also, frankly, gun-rights folks, of whom there are many in Maine, are very much attune to the idea of confiscation, and this bill is very clearly not that.”

New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich for his part said he and King had been working on legislation for years to regulate certain firearms that are particularly lethal.  Heinrich, who is a gun owner and avid hunter, said he hopes the bill’s focus on the mechanisms that make some semi-automatic guns so lethal will win bipartisan support.  Heinrich said this:

“I firmly believe our families and children should feel safe when they go to a bowling alley, when they enter the classroom or when they go to a place of worship.  They shouldn’t have to live in fear that they might fall victim to the next mass shooting tragedy. And I refuse to accept the premise that Democrats and Republicans or gun safety advocates and gun owners are so divided that we can’t take common-sense actions that save lives. … The key is that this bill is not aimed at a particular weapon. It’s aimed at the lethality based upon the magazine size.”.


The introduced senate bill is entitled the Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act.

Unlike other proposed assault weapons bans that he opposed, King said their bill focuses on the mechanisms that can make some semi-automatic guns so deadly rather than their appearance or model numbers. The bill would also make it illegal to make certain modifications to semi-automatic guns. But it would exempt certain types of common gun used by hunters and for self-defense, such as semi-automatic shotguns and handguns that operate with a recoil mechanism. The bill would limit the number of rounds in a gun magazine and require gas-operated, semi-automatic firearms to have permanent or fixed magazines to prevent shooters from rapidly reloading.

The legislation would regulate rifles and shotguns that can fire more than 10 rounds before reloading and handguns that fire more than 15 rounds. It would also prohibit machine gun conversion devices and other modifications that make the guns more deadly.  The bill specifically exempts several types of firearms from any regulation, including breach-loading and smooth-bore rifles or handguns. A .22-caliber rifle or a bolt-action rifle would also be exempt, for example. The bill would also “grandfather in” all currently owned guns, though those gun owners would be restricted on to whom they could sell the weapon to.

The legislation if enacted would regulate the sale, transfer, and manufacture of gas-operated semi-automatic weapons by:

  • Establishing a list of prohibited firearms;
  • Preventing unlawful modifications of permissible firearms;
  • Mandating that future gas-operated designs are approved before manufacture; and
  • Preventing unlawful firearm self-assembly and manufacturing.

The bill would limit the number of rounds that large capacity ammunition feeding devices are permitted to carry to 10 rounds of ammunition or fewer. The capacity must be “permanently fixed ” meaning the firearm cannot accept a detachable, high-capacity magazine that would increase the number of rounds that can be fired before reloading and make reloading easier.

The bill includes exemptions based on maximum ammunition capacity according to a firearm’s individual class: a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. Exemptions include:

  • .22 caliber rimfire or less firearms
  • Bolt action rifles
  • Semi-automatic shotguns
  • Recoil-operated handguns
  • Any rifle with a permanently fixed magazine of 10 rounds or less
  • Any shotgun with a permanently fixed magazine of 10 rounds or less
  • Any handgun with a permanently fixed magazine of 15 rounds or less

The bill would also “grandfather in” all currently owned guns, though those gun owners would be restricted on to whom they could sell the weapon


The proposed legislation drew quick opposition and encountered skepticism and opposition from gun owners’ rights groups. David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said this:

“Sen. King’s legislation has a slim chance of getting out of Congress and an even slimmer chance of getting through the Supreme Court.”

Randy Kozuch, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said this in a statement:

“This legislation blatantly violates the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court rulings by banning the very types of firearms and magazines most often utilized by Americans for defending themselves and their families. … This bill unjustly and improperly places the full burden of the law on law-abiding residents, while doing nothing to take guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals.”


On December 15, at a news conference in Santa Fe,  Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she will  encourage the New Mexico Legislature to consider the  proposed federal Go Safe Act, co sponsored by Senator Martin Heinrich, aimed at reducing a shooter’s ability to fire off dozens of rounds a second and attach new magazines to keep firing.  If approved, it would mean assault-style weapons would have permanently fixed magazines, limited to 10 rounds for rifles and 15 rounds for some heavy-format pistols. Lujan Grisham said this:

“I’ve got a set of lawmakers that are more likely than not to have a fair debate about guns, gun violence, weapons of war and keeping New Mexicans safe than members of Congress are. … We will have to see how those votes all shake out.”

Bans on assault rifles in several states are under legal challenge after the U.S. Supreme Court in June broadly expanded gun rights in a 6-3 ruling by the conservative majority. The decision overturned a New York law restricting carrying guns in public and affected a half-dozen other states with similar laws. After the ruling, New York and other states have moved to pass new gun restrictions that comply with the decision.

The 2024 New Mexico legislature is a 30 day session and opening day on January 16 and it ends on February 15. However, from January 2 to January 12, legislators can “prefile” proposed legislation. The session will focus primarily on budget matters but other bills can be heard at the discretion of the governor.


Lujan Grisham recently suspended the right to carry guns at public parks and playgrounds in New Mexico’s largest metro area under an emergency public health order, first issued in response to shootings that included the death of an 11-year-old boy outside a minor league baseball stadium. The governor’s health orders include directives for gun buybacks, monthly inspections of firearms dealers statewide, reports on gunshot victims at New Mexico hospitals and wastewater testing for illicit substances.

The order sparked public protests among gun rights advocates and legal challenges in federal court that are pending.  The Governor has scaled back restrictions on carrying guns from her initial order in September that broadly suspended the right to carry guns in most public places. Bernalillo County Sherriff John Allen and Albuquerque Police Chief  refused to enforce the orders while Attorney General Raul Torrez announced he would not defend those orders in court.

Lujan Grisham claims  her emergency health care orders restricting guns and its approach to violent crime is resulting in  more arrests and reducing gun violence a claim that is repeatedly discredited as gun gun violence continues to be reported in Albuquerque, especially involving teenagers. A good example is a 14 year old  teenager discharging a gun at Coronado Mall the day after Thanksgiving  during a foot chase.


On November 16, the Sant Fe City Council adopted on a 7 to 2 vote as part of its legislative agenda for the 2024 New Mexico Legislature  Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber’s proposal for  a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution and give local government more power when it comes to gun regulations. If the legislature passes the proposal, it would be up to New Mexicans to vote on the issue.

The New Mexico Constitution does not allow local governments, such as cities or counties, to make gun regulations that are more restrictive than the state. If approved, that provision would be removed from the state constitution, giving power to local governments to add more restrictions if it still falls in line with the United States Constitution.

Mayor Alan Webber said this about his proposal:

“We just had a horrific mass shooting in Maine. It is the worst nightmare of every mayor in America that someday something like that will happen in your community. …  When we see something happen anywhere in America and lives are lost … local officials, a mayor or a county official in that community is put in the position of saying ‘I wish I’d done more. I wish I’d tried more.’ … The point [of the legislation] is simply to allow more local choice and more local control so that we at the local level can reflect the views of our residents and indicate that we take seriously trying to reduce or eliminate gun violence at the local level.   [This amendment is needed] so that city governments, local governments, are no longer preempted by the constitution of New Mexico from having gun laws, gun safety provisions that are more restrictive than what the State currently has . … Talk to our residence and say, ‘What would you support in the way of limitations, sensible gun limitations.”,provision%20in%20the%20state%20constitution.,provision%20in%20the%20state%20constitution.


The proposed legislation by Senator Heinrich, Governor Lujan Grisham and Mayor Alan Webber are no doubt well intentioned efforts by all 3 but in reality are very weak at best when it comes to enacting legislation that will actually accomplish anything dealing with gun violence.

If Heinrich, Lujan Grisham and Webber are serious about the State’s crime crisis and want to do something about it, all three should be calling for the New Mexico Legislature to  enact an “Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act” and do so during a special session of the legislature.  The message that must be sent out loud and clear to violent criminals by our elected officials is that New Mexico has a zero tolerance of violent crimes committed with firearms.  The only way to do that is with responsible gun control measures to reduce the availability of guns and to enhance criminal sentencings.


The following crime and sentencing provisions should be included in the “Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing  Act”:

  • Allow firearm offenses used in a drug crime to be charged separately with enhance sentences.
  • Making possession of a handgun by someone who commits a crime of drug trafficking an aggravated third-degree felony mandating a 10-year minimum sentence.
  • Increase the firearm enhancement penalties provided for the brandishing a firearm in the commission of a felony from 3 years to 10 years for a first offense and for a second or subsequent felony in which a firearm is brandished 12 years.
  • Create a new category of enhanced sentencing for use of a lethal weapon or deadly weapon other than a firearm where there is blandishment of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony with enhanced sentences of 5 years for a first offense and for second or subsequent felony in which a lethal weapon other than a firearm is brandished 8 years
  • Increase the penalty of shooting randomly into a crowded area a second-degree felony mandating a 9-year sentence.
  • Increase the penalty and mandatory sentencing for the conviction of the use of a fire arm during a road rage incident to a first degree felony mandating a life sentence.
  • Change bail bond to statutorily empower judges with far more discretionary authority to hold and jail those pending trial who have prior violent crime reported incidents without shifting the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense.


Gun control measures that should be included the “Omnibus Gun Control And  Violent Crime Sentencing  Act” would include legislation that failed in the 2023 legislative session and other measures and would include the following:

  • Call for the 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, but what is the real rational for allowing side arms and rifles to be carried down the street other than to intimidate others.
  • Restrict the sale, manufacture and possession of AR-15-style rifles along with semiautomatic firearms and make it a fourth-degree felony to purchase, possess, manufacture, import, sell or transfer assault weapons in the state.
  • Prohibited magazines with more than 10 rounds.
  • Prohibited the possession of semiautomatic firearm converter that allows the weapon to fire more rapidly.
  • Established a 14-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm and requires a prospective seller who doesn’t already hold a valid federal firearms license to arrange for someone who does to conduct a federal background check prior to selling a firearm. 
  • Institute a Federal and State background check system  with a  mental health component  that would disqualify a person with a history of mental health violent outbursts or a history of threats to others from making a gun purchase.  
  • Established a minimum age of 21 for anyone seeking to purchase or possess an automatic firearm, semiautomatic firearm or firearm capable of accepting a large-capacity magazine.
  • Ban the manufacture, sale, trade, gift, transfer or acquisition of semiautomatic pistols that have two or more defined characteristics.
  • Revised the state’s Unfair Practices Act to target the sale of illegal firearms and parts, allowing the filing of lawsuits to enforce the act.
  • 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.
  • Require 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.
  • 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.
  • Require a permit to purchase all rifles and handguns.  There are 15 other states require a permit to purchase or licensing.  The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Firearm licensing has past performance.  A John Hopkins University study in a comparative analysis, describes licensing as the most effective firearm policy. Connecticut notes a 28% decrease in homicides, 33% decrease in suicides 10 years post licensing. When you compare states with and without licensing, there is a 56% decrease in mass shootings. Studies reveal a decrease of gun trafficking of more than 60% after licensing.  Missouri found similar increases in homicides and suicides when removing their purchase restrictions.  Licensing is constitutional it has broad public support.  Licensing brings in revenue to the state vs simply cost the state money.

The Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing  Act Omnibus Gun Violence And Sentencing  Act  must include funding for the criminal justice system. This would include funding District Attorney’s Offices, the Public Defender’s Office, the Courts and the Corrections Department and law enforcement departments across New Mexico.


When it comes to gun control legislation, it’s not at all likely anything is going to actually in get done in the upcoming 30 day legislative session that begins on January 16.  That is why the Governor should again consider calling a special session to deal with gun control measures immediately after the 2024 session.

Until the New Mexico legislature get serious about New Mexico’s gun violence crisis and enacts reasonable gun control measures in conjunction with crime and punishment measures, we can expect our violent crime rates to continue to increase, and God forbid, yet another killing of a child which is what prompted the Governor to issue her executive orders in the first place.

The link to a related article is here:

Comprehensive Report On “Gunshot Victims Presenting at Hospitals in New Mexico”; Scathing Indictment Of New Mexico Legislature’s Failure To Address New Mexico’s Gun Violence Crisis; Crime Statistics Reflect Epidemic; Combined Both Identify  Need For Comprehensive Gun Control Measures

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.