On Tuesday, January 25, the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee will consider House Bill 68, a crime bill sponsored by Rep. Meredith Dixon (D-ABQ) and messaged as germane to the 30-day budget session by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The bill increases penalties for a number of offenses related to the criminal misuse of a firearm, but Section 2 of the measure expands the current felony offense of carrying a deadly weapon on school premises to make it unlawful to carry a deadly weapon within 1,000 feet of any pre-K, kindergarten, elementary or secondary public, private or parochial school property line. Section 2 of the bill is unnecessary, overbroad and confusing. Criminals will ignore "gun-free" zones and HB 68 will only create legal traps for law-abiding citizens engaging in legitimate activities involving firearms.
The measure exempts school-sanctioned activities involving the use of firearms, firearms on private property within school zones, the transportation of firearms in motor vehicles by anyone 19 or older, and handgun possession by concealed handgun licensees. However, the bill criminalizes the possession of firearms on public sidewalks and streets, rights of way and highways if you do not fall under one of these exemptions.
So if you park on the street outside your home and you carry your unloaded or encased rifle or shotgun out to your car to go hunting or visit the range, you could be committing a felony if you live within 1,000 feet of a school. If your local gun store is located within 1,000 feet of a school and you are forced to park on the street because the retailer is experiencing customer overflow, you could be committing a felony when transporting your firearm into the store for appraisal, repair or sale - or when carrying your newly-purchased firearm out of the store to your car or truck. If you are 18 and otherwise lawfully possess a long gun in your vehicle, you could become a felon if you drive within 1,000 feet of a school. Also, the "gun-free zones" under the bill would include off-campus areas such as public parks, ball fields and other greenspaces where student activities are conducted -- whether or not these facilities are actually being used for student activities at the time.
Please contact members of the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee and urge them to remove Section 2 of HB 68 when the bill is considered in committee.
You are also urged to participate in the committee hearing via Zoom or by phone and offer comments in opposition to Section 2 of HB 68. The hearing will be held at 1:30 pm (OR 15 minutes after floor session, which could mean earlier or later). Please be prepared for your comments to be limited to 1 minute. Instructions for joining the meeting via Zoom or by phone can be found below:
House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee
Please click the link below to join the webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82353539692
Or one tap mobile : US: +16699009128,,82353539692# or +12532158782,,82353539692# Or Telephone: Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 669 900 9128 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 646 558 8656 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 Webinar ID: 823 5353 9692
Last Friday, Rep. Pamelya Herndon (D-ABQ) introduced House Bill 9, legislation to create civil fines and misdemeanor penalties for parents or guardians whose minors gain unauthorized access to their firearms (except in the case of burglary). There is no educational component or planned community outreach effort attached to the bill, such as is found in NRA's Eddie Eagle child accident prevention program or the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Project ChildSafe firearms safety kit giveaways. It also contains a provision that would allow parents to take other parents to court to impose a $1,000 fine on them if they allege that a minor gained access to their firearms, without any specifics on whether or what kind of an investigation would take place.
New Mexico already has laws on the books to hold adults accountable for endangering a child. (NMSA Section 30-6-1, New Mexico’s Child Abuse/Abandonment statute). Under the law, it is a felony for a responsible person to knowingly, intentionally, or negligently, and without justifiable cause, cause or permit a child to be placed in a situation that may endanger the child’s life or health. Prosecutors have the tools, in appropriate cases, to hold parents, guardians or other custodians of children accountable when a child gains unauthorized access to a firearm and commits a crime or injures himself or someone else.
Even though the governor did not give this specific bill a message to make it germane to the 30-day budget session, today the House Rules Committee to which it was referred ignored the advice of its own committee lawyers and declared it germane under the message the governor gave House Bill 68. It is convoluted logic, to say the least, but the net result is that the bill will now move forward through the regular committee process. It has been referred to the House Consumer & Public Affairs, the House Judiciary and the House Appropriations & Finance Committees. Please contact the members of those committees and let your opinion on this measure be known!