A bill aimed at closing what advocates call the “gun show loophole” by requiring background checks in New Mexico passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Feb. 13, and now moves on to the state Senate.
After nearly two and a half hours of debate on the House floor, House Bill 77 passed 43-26, including the support of eight Republicans.Earlier this week, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said she would sign HB77 if it gets to her desk unchanged.
“We don’t think this is an infringement on 2nd Amendment rights at all,” HB77 sponsor Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, told New Mexico Watchdog after the vote. “In fact, we think this enhances 2nd Amendment rights.”
Three weeks ago, the bill was stalled in committee but Rep. Garcia worked with House Republicans including Rep. Nate Gentry of Albuquerque to take out provisions some GOP members objected to.
The reworked bill dropped a requirement that the Department of Public Safety oversee background checks and deleted any provisions dealing with private transactions for firearms, as well as exempting people with concealed-carry permits.
Gov. Martinez pointed to another change in the bill that establishes a procedure to align the state’s mental health and criminal conviction records with the federal instant background check system.
“This is a product of compromise,” Rep. Gentry said at the beginning of the debate that more resembled speechifying as ardent critics and supporters of the bill didn’t ask many questions but gave their opinions on the bill instead.
“It appears that some members are willing to stand up and beat their chests,” Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, said in opposition while Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, spoke for 20 minutes in support of the bill. ““This bill is moderate. It is bipartisan. It is intelligent,” he said.
In the end, eight of 32 Republicans voted for the bill (Alonzo Baldonado, Kelly Fajardo, Gentry, Jason Harper, Terry McMillan, Paul Pacheco, Jim White and Monica Youngblood) while three Democrats voted against it (Kiki Saavedra, Nate Cote and George Dodge).
The bill now moves on to the Senate and with 31 days left in the 60-day session and considering that Democrats hold a 25-17 edge on Republicans in that chamber, it seems HB77 has a good chance to end up on the governor’s desk.
“Now we put our armor on again and go through the committee process in the Senate,” Garcia said.