Lawmaker wants background checks on private sales
People who buy firearms in private transactions and at gun shows would be subject to background checks under a bill that a New Mexico legislator plans to introduce this month.
Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, said Friday he will sponsor the measure to close a loophole that allows criminals or those who have been adjudicated as mentally ill to make undetected purchases of guns.
“Our no-questions-asked days are over,” Garcia said during a news conference at the State Capitol.
His bill would mandate that background checks be done by the state Department of Public Safety before firearm sales are completed, except for those purchases made from licensed gun dealers. Those who buy from licensed dealers already must disclose background information to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Garcia’s proposal would require other gun sellers to call the Department of Public Safety and request a background check on the prospective buyer.
DPS would have to establish a seven-day-a-week phone line to respond to inquires, under his bill.
Garcia said he could not estimate how much implementation of the screening system would cost taxpayers. A financial analysis of the bill will be done after it is formally introduced on Jan. 16.
His research, he said, showed that only three gun shows are held each year in the state.
Garcia’s call for background checks on private gun sales might be harder to police. Nobody knows how many gun buys are made across kitchen tables or through classified ads.
His bill proposes that those who violate the law on background checks face a misdemeanor conviction and penalties of a year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.
During his hour-long news conference, Garcia at one point criticized Republican Gov. Susana Martinez for showing little interest in gun-control measures.
But, he said, mass killings by gunmen, such as the one last month at a Connecticut elementary school, have made the timing right for his bill.
“I think we can hopefully touch our governor’s heart,” he said.
Messages seeking comment from Martinez’s spokesman were not immediately returned.
After the Connecticut tragedy in which 27 people died, Martinez said she wanted a law to help keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people.
“I will pursue legislation this session to make clear that the state must accurately and promptly provide information on people who have been found mentally ill by a court, or who have been involuntarily committed to an institution,” she said.
Garcia said across the last 16 years he had considered writing bills to ban assault weapons, certain ammunition and gun clips that carry more than five cartridges. He said he had been overzealous, then ended up not introducing those measures because the odds of passage were long.
This time, he said, his was committed only to his bill on background checks in hopes that lawbreakers and mentally unstable people will not be able to get easy access to guns.
Garcia said eight states have laws requiring background checks for those
making purchases at gun shows. He said four states require the checks
on private sales of guns.