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New Mexico Telegram » Featured, New Mexico House » Universal background check bill fails in committee; will likely be back

Universal background check bill fails in committee; will likely be back

A bill that would require universal background checks on all gun purchases failed in the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-8 vote.

This does not mean the bill itself is dead, as it can be brought back from the table, which appears likely in this case. The bill would have to be brought back by someone who voted against passing the legislation.

The vote was a near-party-line vote. Only Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, bucked the trend and voted with the other party.

Alcon’s main objection in his remarks was that it would require background checks for those who wished to transfer their firearms to adult family members. It exempted the requirement for a background check on minors after an amendment by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, that the committee accepted on a party-line vote.

This was the first year that Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, had brought the bill. He brought the bill in response to the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Garcia said he believed that the bill actually helped with gun rights and that it “kind of equalizes the playing field.”

Garcia said that currently a vendor would have to have the purchaser go through the background check process while an individual selling a gun would be able to immediately make the sale without checking to see the person buying the weapon was legally allowed to own the weapon.

“This is the beginning of a conversation,” committee chair Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, said near the end of a hearing on the bill. Chasey noted that it sometimes takes many sessions for a bill to be passed.

Chasey herself knows this this, as one of her perennial bills was to repeal the death penalty — and it took a decade for that bill to finally become law.

The vote came after two hours of testimony from the public — one hour from opponents of the bill followed by one hour of those who backed the bill. The members of the committee also questioned Garcia and his expert witnesses before voting.

Republicans were harshly critical of the bill.

Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, said repeatedly, “This legislation is bad.”

Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, said when someone is arrested for a high-speed chase, the person is blamed. But when there is a shooting incident, the focus is on the gun.

“Why do we not think that he is responsible?” the former police officer asked.

Democrats also had their objections. In addition to the objections of Alcon that stalled the bill — though probably not for good — Rep. Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, also had some problems with the legislation.

This was not enough to oppose the bill however. Maestas made a point to say that the bill was not unconstitutional, as several of the opponents of the bill in the public testimony said.

“Submitting to a background check is not unconstitutional,” Maestsas said. He said if that were the case, background checks at retailers like Wal-Mart or with vendors at gun shows would be unconstitutional.

Photo via Flickr by kdcdsTM

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Matthew Reichbach has blogged about New Mexico politics since 2006. Matthew was a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation. In addition to politics, Matthew is an avid sports fan, especially of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and TV fan.

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