Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed into law a high-profile bill that will add New Mexico to the list of roughly 20 states that require universal background checks for gun purchases.
The governor, who pushed for gun control measures on the campaign trail last year, said the measure could lead to a decrease in gun violence, specifically citing a study that fewer law enforcement officers are shot and killed in the line of duty in states with such laws.
“We all have a constitutional right to be safe in our homes and communities,” Lujan Grisham said.
But the battle over Senate Bill 8 might not be over yet.
The legislation, and other gun-related bills pending at the Roundhouse, have generated broad opposition from all but a few of the state’s 33 county sheriffs. In addition, 25 counties have passed “Second Amendment sanctuary” ordinances in opposition to the measures.
Although the state’s three most populous counties – Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Santa Fe – have not joined the movement, top-ranking House GOP lawmakers have said the outcry shows lawmakers have ignored the will of New Mexicans, especially those in rural parts of the state.
They have also announced plans to try to repeal the background check law via the rarely-used voter referendum process.
But Lujan Grisham pushed back strongly against critics of the bill, accusing the sheriffs of being part of a “national misinformation campaign” driven by the National Rifle Association.
“It’s clear the NRA isn’t going to stop trying to meddle in making this a safer state,” she said during a ceremonial bill signing in the Governor’s Office, as top-ranking Democratic lawmakers, middle school students, gun control advocates and Albuquerque’s police chief looked on.
While previous attempts to require background checks on nearly all types of gun purchases — including online sales and those at gun shows — have stalled at the Roundhouse, this year’s bill narrowly passed the Senate and then cleared the House.
The bill signed into law today will apply to nearly all gun sales, but will exempt gun sales and transfers between close family members and sales between law enforcement officers.
Backers insist it won’t infringe with gun owners Constitutional rights, though opponents have questioned that claim.
“The crux of the legislation has noting to do with the Second Amendment — it’s all about saving lives,” said Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, the bill’s primary sponsor.
New Mexico’s rate of firearm deaths per capita has been consistently higher than the national average.
As of 2017, the state had the nation’s 10th-highest rate — at 18.5 per 100,000 people — of deaths caused by firearms, according to state Department of Health data.
© 2019 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
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