A bill to impose a waiting period for firearm purchases narrowly cleared the House of Representatives late Friday afternoon, but it would cut the number of days in half.
The House approved House Bill 129, sponsored by Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, and others, on a 37-33 vote. She, alongside the majority Democratic representatives, argued the bill will help prevent some suicides and gun deaths.
Several Democrats, however, joined Republicans in opposition of the bill, including Rep. Patricia A. Lundstrom, D-Gallup; Rep. Harry Garcia, D-Grants; Rep. Wonda Johnson, D-Rehoboth and others.
Rep. Natalie Figueroa, D-Bernalillo, referenced her training as a teacher regarding suicide to stand in support of the bill, adding “it is a major cause of loss not just among high school students, but among young folks.”
“What we are drilled on over and over again is the fact that it is a temporary ideation…With that in mind, this idea that you separate a potentially suicidal person from a lethal weapon is a good idea,” Figueroa said, noting most suicide attempts with a firearm are successful. “This dangerous period of time is where we can make a difference.”
The original bill—lauded by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as part of a public safety package this session— proposed as a 14-day wait period, but representatives in a 35-34 vote approved an amendment from Rep. Art De La Cruz, D-Bernalillo, to lower the wait to seven days. While Cruz said he’s “inclined to support a waiting period,” two weeks is too long.
“I am trying to reduce the number and achieve the same goal by giving someone time to reconsider their actions and seek help,” he said.
While some Democrats, including Rep. Merideth Dixon, D-Bernallo, said they favored the reduced waiting period and recognized it as a compromise, the change didn’t sway anyone on the other side of the aisle. Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm, R-Bernalillo, disputed the idea that the law would prevent suicides, citing his experience in law enforcement.
“Unfortunately, if someone wants to commit suicide, they will commit suicide,” Rehm said. “If you take one mechanism away, they will find another.”
Rep. Luis Terrazas, R-Santa Clara, argued if the goal is to save lives and make an impact, it will need to be “a different way” that is not “removing rights from law abiding citizens,” such as addressing human trafficking or fentanyl that’s coming “from our lack of border security.”
“My district is predominantly blue, and I’m here because of them. These Democrats who vote straight democratic are coming to me and are making clear they don’t want to give one inch of their liberty,” Terrazas said. “I haven’t had one person call my office and tell me they’re supporting this.”
HB129′s additional sponsors include Reps. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque; Cristina Parajón, D-Albuquerque; Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, and Sens. Joseph Cervantez, D-Las Cruces, and Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque. The bill will now move to the Senate. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 69 would also call for a 14-day waiting period. Three committees approved the bill, and it now awaits a floor hearing.