Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico take aim at gun violence, panhandling, retail crime and hazing

Jan 12, 2024, 1:12 PM

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s governor presented a broad suite of legislative proposals on gun control and enhanced penalties for violent crime Friday, vowing to forge new pathways through the complex landscape of constitutional law in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to expand gun rights.

The announcements by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a second-term Democrat, puts public safety at the forefront of a 30-day legislative session that starts Tuesday. The fast-paced session is limited to budget negotiations — and initiatives chosen by the governor.

“The constitutionality questions are beginning to be very complicated in the arena of gun violence,” Lujan Grisham said. “We are going to continue this effort, following what is going on around the country. … There will be others who will follow in our footsteps, creating their own public safety corridors, which in effect also make New Mexicans safer.”

Germane proposals will include a ban on guns at public parks and playgrounds with felony penalties for violations — expanding a hallmark of the governor’s ongoing declaration of a public health emergency related to gun violence and drug abuse.

The governor’s emergency orders, which suspend the right to carry firearms at parks and playgrounds in Albuquerque in response to a string of shootings that have killed children, is being challenged by gun advocates in federal court. Meanwhile the state Supreme Court considers whether the governor overstepped her authority under state law.

Democratic legislators are seeking a 14-day waiting period for background checks on gun purchases and a minimum age set to 21 on purchases of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns.

A proposal from Democratic state Rep. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe would place new limitations on assault-style weapons to reducing a shooter’s ability to fire off dozens of rounds a second and attach new magazines to keep firing.

A list of more than 20 public-safety bills, sponsored mostly by Democratic legislators, extend beyond gun safety to a panhandling ban and expanded criminal provisions related to retail theft as local stores have resorted to padlocking clothes. The proposals also include felony penalties for teachers and coaches who ignore hazing incidents in the wake of alleged locker-room assaults involving New Mexico State basketball players.

Republicans in the legislative minority vowed to oppose bills that infringe on Second Amendment rights, and the fate of gun restrictions may hinge on a handful of Democratic lawmakers in regions of the state with a strong culture of gun ownership.

Republican Senate Leader Craig Baca of Belen said deliberations about crime on Friday “took a hyper-partisan turn with the announcement of several anti-Second Amendment measures targeting New Mexico gun owners who only want to protect themselves and their families.”

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Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico take aim at gun violence, panhandling, retail crime and hazing