In the first few weeks of the current 60-day legislative session, gun control measures in New Mexico generated plenty of passionate debate and jam-packed crowds at the Roundhouse.
But only three bills dealing with restricting gun access have been introduced. With three days left in the session, only one remains, and it’s stuck in committee.
“I’m not sure what’s going on,” said Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque. “We’re hopeful it will come up at the next meeting.”House Bill 77, aimed at closing what advocates say is the gun show loophole, has been sitting in committee, one step shy of a vote on the Senate floor.
HB 77 passed the House, 43-26, with a handful of Republicans supporting it. Gov. Susana Martinez told reporters she would sign the bill into law because it establishes a procedure to align the state’s mental health and criminal conviction records with the federal instant background check system.
It looked as if the bill was going to zoom through the Senate, but it hasn’t been heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“We had to roll three agenda items into one and it became a four-page agenda,” Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, said Wednesday morning. “We’re trying to pick (the bills) that are easier and I’m afraid HB 77 is going to clog up the whole evening … so if we can, we’ll do it and if we can, we’ll probably (hear) it alone.”
But time is running out. The Judiciary Committee is not meeting again until Thursday, and even if HB77 is heard and voted on then, it probably wound’t reach the Senate floor until Friday.
In addition, since HB 77 was amended in the Senate, it would have to go back to the House for concurrence — the practice of hammering out the differences in the legislation between the two chambers.
The session ends at noon Saturday.
“I trust that the chairman (Martinez) will put it on his agenda as quickly as possible,” Garcia said. “We’re crossing our fingers.”
The only other gun control measures introduced this session were bills that would have restricted assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices in New Mexico and banned firearms in the Roundhouse — except for military, law enforcement and security.
But the assault weapons bill was tabled in a House committee with a Democrat casting the deciding vote; the firearms ban in the Capitol has gone nowhere.