National Rife Association members joined Quakers and a slew of other people at a committee hearing at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe this weekend to comment on a bill that would have required universal background checks at gun shows in New Mexico. The bill was defeated on a party line vote, but the issue is likely to stick around.
Democratic Representative Miguel Garcia presented the bill to the Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee on Saturday. It would have forced private sellers at gun shows to run background checks on their potential customers. Currently, only licensed gun dealers are required to run those checks.
More than 100 people packed into the chambers to speak up. Those who were in support of House Bill 44 spoke first.
Schoolteachers and a few retired law enforcement officers said the bill was sensible. They called it rational legislation that would help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
Federal law prohibits felons, fugitives, people who’ve been convicted of domestic violence, and anyone who’s been declared mentally incompetent from owning guns. HB 44 would prevent those people from buying guns from private sellers.
When Mary Shoemaker got up to speak, she asked the crowd to close their eyes and imagine someone that they loved.
“Think about their hopes and the laughter and probably the tears that you had with that person,” Shoemaker said. “Now I’d like you to switch to the emergency room and hold that person's hand while they bleed out from a gunshot wound.”
Shoemaker said her son died of a gunshot wound just a few months ago.
Nancy Bennett, who opposed the bill, said nobody really supports gun violence.
“Come on people! Everybody wants to prevent gun violence,” Bennett exclaimed. “But do we have any evidence that gun show guns are killing New Mexicans? I don’t think so. So why do we need this bill? There’s no indication that this will save even one life!”
Under the proposal private sellers would have to fill out a form and then have a licensed gun dealer run the background check for a fee. Bennett said the bill would just create more bureaucracy and red tape.
“Well I suppose a lot of you thought I would have horns, a red cape and a tail,” Mark Covell said when he got up to speak. “As a gun show promoter, if I don’t follow exactly what this bill says, I’m now a new criminal, but I haven’t changed the way I’ve done business. Not one iota.”
The argument was voiced again and again that the bill would start chipping away at people’s 2nd amendment rights.
All three Democratic representatives on the committee voted in favor of the background checks.
Republican Governor Susana Martinez has said she would support similar legislation but Republicans voted to table the bill Saturday, effectively killing it.
Representative Garcia said after the vote that they had lost this year’s battle, but not the war.