SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A Democratic state senator is pushing for additional gun control legislation to make sure gun owners are locking up their firearms. Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez said her bill is about protecting kids who injure or accidentally kill themselves.

“New Mexico is the 10th worst state for gun deaths and children between the ages of zero and 19 are killed by guns at a rate almost 60 percent higher than the national average and are murdered by guns at 40 percent of the national average,” said Sen. Sedillo Lopez. In Senate Bill 224, gun owners would have to properly store and lock up their guns when the owner or other authorized people aren’t using them.

The bill said a minor may be an authorized user only if the minor is 12 years old and has completed a firearm safety training course. It also adds that if the gun owner fails to secure a gun and a minor, an at-risk person or prohibited person gets the gun, then they could get hit with a $500 or $1,000 fine. The sponsor said most gun owners are responsible so this wouldn’t impact them. This bill is aimed at keeping guns away from kids who might play with them and accidentally shoot themselves or harm others.

Sen. Sedillo Lopez said people are already reaching out to her confused about the bill’s purpose. “There’s a misinterpretation of this bill that people couldn’t teach their children how to hunt and that is totally wrong because if you’re teaching your child, that gun is in your control,” said Sen. Sedillo Lopez. “So this bill wouldn’t affect you at all.”

According to a 2019 New Mexico Department of Health report on gun deaths, in 2017, 66% died by suicide and about 2% died by guns that were accidental. So far, this bill is not scheduled for discussion in any committee. This would be a misdemeanor penalty if charged. The sponsor adds that enforcement for this would be after someone who is not authorized to have the gun and got control of it.