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House panel advances two bills related to guns

The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon voted in favor of two pieces of legislation that support Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s gun control reform plans. Pictured is a collection of illegal guns displayed during a 2021 gun buyback event in Brooklyn, New York. Bebeto Matthews/AP File Photo
One bill would restrict the use of firearms and the other has restrictions on firearm sales

The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday afternoon voted in favor of two pieces of legislation that support Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s gun control reform plans.

House Bill 27 and House Bill 114 were each passed by the committee on a 4-2 vote.

Both bills are included in Lujan Grisham’s list of proposals she is prioritizing this legislative session. She signed executive messages on Jan. 17, the first day lawmakers convened in Santa Fe, to allow the proposals to be debated during the short 30-day session.

House Bill 27 would expand the use of Extreme Risk Protection Orders. These orders come from a 2020 law and are meant to temporarily take guns away from people who could be dangerous toward themselves or others.

This proposal is sponsored by Reps. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), Joy Garratt (D-Albuquerque) and Cristina Parajón (D-Albuquerque). The legislation would allow police and health care workers to request an order if they believe there is a risk with someone having a gun.

Chandler said some confusion has come up in the courts, with at least one district court judge concluding that police may not be the ones who file a petition for an extreme risk protection order.

HB 27 would allow any local police department, sheriff’s office, the New Mexico State Police, or attorneys working for local prosecutors or the New Mexico Department of Justice to take the gun away immediately whenever a judge issues an order. The law today requires them to wait 48 hours, Chandler said.

“This, frankly, poses a threat to law enforcement and possibly others, because it gives opportunity for that individual who may be a threat to himself or others to act on those impulses,” Chandler said.

The bill would also create an expedited process for an on-call judge to issue orders 24-7.

Reps. John Block (R-Alamogordo) and Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park) questioned the bill’s sponsors and their experts for two hours.

Block said HB 27 would erode due process rights for people accused, and said he is murky about which health care workers would be allowed to ask for an order to remove a firearm from an individual.

“I have huge concerns regarding constitutional rights of this bill,” Block said. “On behalf of my constituents, it’s going to be a very hard pill to swallow to vote for this legislation.”

Block and Lord voted against the two bills.

Despite that opposition, the committee also voted 4-2 to pass House Bill 114, sponsored by Chandler, which would require gun manufacturers to take reasonable precautions against allowing guns to fall into the wrong hands.

Those precautions would include preventing loss or theft, not promoting unlawful use of guns, and preventing the sale of guns to anyone who can’t own one or who might use it to harm themselves or others, according to the legislation.

Chandler said the New Mexico Attorney General would have the authority to enforce adequate controls and recover damages if controls aren’t in place, and private individuals who may be harmed by the gun industry could sue and recover attorney’s fees and damages for the same reason.

Lord said the bill would tie up law-abiding gun sellers in court.

“That’s what I don’t want to happen,” Lord said. “I’ve seen most of them going above and beyond to make sure they’re not getting firearms in the wrong hands, and locking up their firearms.”

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