The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a measure to impose a seven-day waiting period on firearm purchases in a 6-3 party-line vote Wednesday night following several changes.
Before committee members debated House Bill 129, several people from the public testified both in favor and against the bill.
Meredith Machen, a member of the League of Women Voters, cited a 30-day waiting period in Minnesota, describing New Mexico’s proposal as “modest.”
“I’ve had students commit suicide, and I can’t tell you what’s it’s like when you know if somebody had only had time to think about what they were contemplating, if they only had some kind of prevention, they wouldn’t have done what they decided to do at the time,” Machen said. “This is a really important provision that needs to be in law in New Mexico.”
Erik Rasmussen, who owns the Right To Bear Arms gun store in Albuquerque, told the committee the measure “inappropriately impacts rural gun buyers” who are “marginalized as far as their incomes go…This could potentially cost them 600 miles as opposed to 300 miles.”
Committee Chair Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, sought amendments to make the bill “look a lot closer to the Senate version,” a bill he introduced that calls for a 14-day waiting period. The original House measure—lauded by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as part of a 21-bill public safety package for the 2024 session—also proposed a wait period of the same length, but the House cut the number of days in half when it approved the bill Feb. 2.
Sen. Cliff R. Pirtle, R-Roswell, said both lengths of time were “egregious” and “ridiculous,” adding he feared the legislation could put gun dealers out of business in New Mexico because buyers will go to other states.
“We’re talking almost jokingly about 7 to 14 days but the reality is there are people in situations where the government isn’t going to help them,” Pirtle said, “…and we are going to create a situation where they have to go to Texas to purchase a firearm,” because of “a magic number we pulled out of a hat with a rabbit.”
Cervantes also introduced a change approved by the committee that he said was intended to ensure the measure would survive a potential constitutional challenge. While the House bill called for a firearms dealer to retain a weapon if a buyer’s background check was not completed by the federal government, the committee version allows a dealer to transfer the weapon after 30 days if the check is not completed. Bill Sponsor Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, said she agreed the amendment would close a “loophole” so the bill was not open to challenge.
The committee also amended the bill to allow an exemption for people with a concealed carry permit and for exchanges between law enforcement officers.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor.