On the heels of House Bill 50, NRA-opposed magazine limit legislation alerted on earlier this week, comes House Bill 9, gun owner liability legislation filed by State Rep. Pamela Herndon (D-ABQ).
A repeat bill from the 2022 session, House Bill 9 creates a fourth-degree felony penalty for a person who keeps or stores a firearm in a manner that negligently disregards a minor's ability to access that firearm and the minor accesses that firearm and uses it in a manner that causes great bodily harm to or death of the minor or another person. If the same circumstances existed and the minor displays or brandishes the firearm in a threatening manner or causes injury to himself or another person not resulting in great bodily harm or death, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor. A person does not violate the provisions of the act if a minor obtained the firearm as a result of an illegal entry to the person's property; if the firearm was kept in a locked container and was securely stored or kept in a location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure when obtained by the minor; if the firearm was carried on one's person or within close proximity of the person; if the firearm was locked with a firearm safety device that rendered the firearm inoperable; or if the minor obtained the firearm in the course of self-defense or defense of another person.
With no exception for consent or authorized use of firearms to offer protection from criminal liability, this measure could have a chilling effect on youths accessing firearms to engage in activities such as hunting or 4-H shooting sports and competitions. New Mexico law allows minors to own and possess long guns, and even handguns in some cases, for such activities.
There is also no educational or community outreach component to House Bill 9, such as NRA's Eddie Eagle child accident prevention program or the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Project ChildSafe firearms safety kit giveaways. 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.
The New Mexico Legislature convenes on January 17, and will meet for 60 calendar days. Contact information is not yet available on http://www.nmlegis.gov for members of the 2023 House of Representatives. NRA-ILA will alert you as to when the website is updated and when HB 9 is set for a committee hearing!