By Rob Nikolewski | New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE — A bill aimed at closing what advocates call the “gun show loophole” by requiring background checks in New Mexico is on its way to the state Senate.
After nearly two and a half hours of debate Wednesday on the House floor, House Bill 77 passed 43-26, including the support of eight Republicans.
“We don’t think this is an infringement on Second Amendment rights at all,” HB77 sponsor Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, told New Mexico Watchdog after the vote. “In fact, we think this is an enhancement of Second Amendment rights.”
Three weeks ago, the bill was stalled in committee but Garcia worked with House Republicans including Rep. Nate Gentry of Albuquerque to take out provisions that drew objections from some GOP members.
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.
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,” 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.
“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.
The bill moves on to the Senate, , 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.
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