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New Mexico House passes background check bill

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Legislation that would mandate federal background checks for all gun sales within the state passed the New Mexico House of Representatives Friday night, following hours of discussion and contentious debate.

House Bill 8 passed by a vote of 41 to 25. House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, and Roswell representatives Phelps Anderson, Candy Spence Ezzell and Greg Nibert were among those who voted against the bill.

House Bill 8 would require a federal background check on any gun sale in New Mexico, including sales over the internet and at gun shows, whenever a sale of a firearm is made for a fee or other consideration.

Currently only merchants with a federal firearms license are required by law to carry out background checks. Under House Bill 8, both the buyer and seller in a gun sale could be charged with a misdemeanor if no background check is performed.

Holders of a current and valid federal firearms license, any law enforcement agencies and a sale between two law enforcement officers authorized to carry a gun would not have to undergo a background check.

Firearms given as gifts or passed down through inheritance would not be subject to House Bill 8, nor would people who lend someone a gun.

In changes made to the bill Friday, flare guns and antique guns that are inoperable would also be exempt.

State Rep. Debra Sariana, D-Albuquerque, said the legislation is intended to make it more difficult for felons and other people who are not allowed to possess guns.

Other lawmakers also said the bill will help curtail gun violence within the state.

“This is our moment to do what we can to move in the right direction in order to prevent gun violence in our state,” state Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla.

Republicans though said the bill will only end up hindering law abiding citizens who wish to purchase a gun. Ezzell added she has received hundreds of emails and multiple phones calls from people concerned that the bill could make it harder for them to buy a gun.

“All I see this bill doing is making it more onerous for responsible gun owners to uphold their Second Amendment rights,” state Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell.

Opponents said the bill would do little to stop gun violence because most criminals obtain guns from the black market or on the streets.

“It is not going to stop them from from being able to secure a gun and and that gun will go through no background check, whenever it goes into their hands,” Ezzell said.

Nibert said he worried the bill would do more than just regulate sales, it could also affect youth shooting events put on by social organizations such as the Boy Scouts.

A Boy Scout leader, Nibert said he often leads his group to a camp, with each scout paying a fee to go. Some of those scouts end up taking part in rifle or shotgun events to earn a rifle and shotgun merit badge. He said the council at the camp often give the scouts guns to use at the shooting range.

Nibert said that under the bill a sale is defined as the passing of possession or control of a firearm and for a fee to be involved.

He asked Sariana if those chaperones and children would be subject to the requirements of the bill.

Sariana said they would not, because the fee the children pay to attend the camp is not a thing accepted in exchange for the gun.

The legislation will next go to the Senate Public Affairs Committee for consideration.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.