ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – There’s a renewed push to create a law in New Mexico for people who don’t secure their guns at home. It follows last week’s shooting at Washington Middle School that left a 13-year-old student dead and another facing a murder charge. Some state lawmakers want to hold gun owners responsible if they don’t lock up their guns and keep them away from kids. However, the idea is already facing some pushback.
Friday’s shooting at Albuquerque’s Washington Middle School has rocked the community. Thirteen-year-old Bennie Hargrove was shot and killed allegedly by another 8th-grade student, Juan Saucedo, Jr. The criminal complaint said Saucedo, Jr. brought the gun, which belong to his father, from home. The shooting is creating a renewed push from some state lawmakers to punish gun owners who don’t lock up their guns.
“The point of the bill is to make a strong statement from the state that you should secure your firearms,” said Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D- Albuquerque). The Democratic state senator sponsored a bill this past legislative session that would’ve made it a misdemeanor if gun owners didn’t lock up their guns and someone else got a hold of it. “It’s an educational function first and then there’s a consequence if you don’t,” said the Senator.
Sen. Sedillo Lopez’s bill cleared one committee but wasn’t heard in the next. It’s the fourth time in the past six years this type of legislation has been proposed in the Roundhouse and Sedillo Lopez wants to try again during the next session. However, Republicans said this proposal is unenforceable and unconstitutional.
“There is a Supreme Court case that would’ve affected Senator Sedillo Lopez’s bill,” said House Minority Leader, Rep. James Townsend (R- Artesia). They refer to the Heller Decision from the U.S. Supreme Court which they said guarantees the right to possess firearms and adds that this bill would put limitations on possessions of firearms. Sedillo Lopez disagrees.
“All constitutional rights including the second amendment require a balance between safety and the individual right and here we have a lot of evidence in New Mexico suicides, accidental shootings and domestic violence shootings are all higher than the rest of the state,” said Sen. Sedillo Lopez. “There is a problem in the state that could be addressed in a bill like this.”
Instead of this proposal, the House Republican Leader said people should get behind police officers to make our communities safer. “We desperately need crime under control in Albuquerque,” said Rep. Townsend. “Unfortunately, all those people committing those crimes, they don’t care what’s on the statute, don’t care what laws are on the books.”
Since this next session is just 30 days, it will be up to the governor what lawmakers should focus on. The governor’s office said crime and criminal justice are among the top topics the governor wants to pursue. About half of the U.S. has some sort of law on the books that address negligent storage or child access prevention laws. The City of Albuquerque also tried to pass something similar last year, but it was voted down.