Last night, the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted to table House Bill 402 by state Representative Stephen Easley (D-Eldorado), which would ban the future possession and restrict the transport and storage of so-called “assault weapons” or “large-capacity ammunition-feeding devices.” Thanks to the NRA members who showed up in opposition to this measure and waited for about six hours for it to be heard in Committee. Members of this Committee who voted to table HB 402 are listed below, and we need to thank them for their support:
Chairman Eliseo Alcon
Representative Tom Anderson
Representative Jason Harper
Under HB 402, so-called “assault weapons” or ”large-capacity ammunition-feeding devices” owned in New Mexico prior to July 1, 2013, would have been grandfathered in, but the burden of proving ownership prior to that date would have been placed on the owner. Proving the date of purchase can be almost impossible and serial numbers do not exist on many magazines.
Amendments were offered by the bill sponsor and accepted by the Committee to allow for the transfer of such firearms among certain family members, and some proof of ownership aspects of the measure were addressed, but the heart of the bill remained intact as it was presented to the Committee.
As introduced, HB 402 dictated that ownership of the affected firearms and magazines could not be transferred AT ALL, with a few exceptions for family members. The only means of disposing of them would have been through a gun "buyback" or surrender/turn-in program to law enforcement -- no inheritance, no allowing a friend or relative to take custody of the prohibited property, no selling or transferring the property out-of-state or even to a federally-licensed dealer. Grandfathered owners of the firearms described below would have been required to store them in a locked gun safe at all times except when the guns were being transported or used. Transport would only have been lawful if the firearm was unloaded, any detachable magazine removed and the gun equipped with a triggerlock.
The definition of "assault weapon" in HB 402 is an unmitigated disaster. It doesn’t list specifically-banned models and instead imposed a "one-feature test" for rifles, shotguns and pistols, as well as a catch-all for "a semi-automatic version of an automatic rifle, shotgun or firearm." A banned feature for both semi-automatic rifles that can accept a detachable magazine and semi-automatic shotguns would have included a "secondhand grip" OR a "protruding grip that could be held by the non-trigger hand." Of course, ALL rifles and shotguns feature some sort of secondary gripping surface, as by definition they are designed or made to be fired from the shoulder and gripped with two hands. So HB 402 could essentially ban ALL semi-automatic rifles that can accept a detachable magazine and ALL semi-automatic shotguns, unless they fit into one of the very narrow exemptions in this bill.
HB 402 also would ban ammunition feeding devices with a capacity to accept more than ten rounds of ammunition or that contain more than seven rounds of ammunition. This was just one example of how poorly-drafted this bill was in a rush to follow New York’s lead (where gun control advocates were successful in reducing the existing ten round state limit.) Additionally, HB 402 included a prohibition on items specifically excluded in even the most far-reaching bans we've seen to-date: full ten-round magazines routinely used for competition and feeding devices that are curios or relics!