Firearm Waiting Period Clears Senate

Seven-day gun rule heads back to House before final approval

New Mexico would become the 12th state to impose a waiting period on firearm purchases if state lawmakers take the final steps toward passage of a proposed law. Saturday night, the Senate voted 23-18 to adopt House Bill 129, which calls for a seven-day pause between a gun purchase and possession.

The bill moves next to the House for concurrence, then on the governor’s desk.

Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, a sponsor of the bill, noted he’s a lifetime gun owner and “respects the Second Amendment,” however, he added that makes it incumbent on him to lead on changes to gun laws as a result of increasing violence and suicides.

“We can’t always be the ones to say no to everything. It’s on us,” Cervantes said. “Let’s not go tribal on one another. Let’s look with some admiration at those who can truly cross party lines and find solutions so that when those horrific crimes happen, we can look at ourselves and know we did everything we can to stop this.”

The bill—lauded by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as part of a 21-bill public safety package for the 2024 session—initially began as a 14-day proposal, but the House of Representatives cut the number of days in half.

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, joined other Senate Republicans and four Democrats in voting against the measures, which he called “a straight attack on culture” for New Mexicans.

“When we bring bills like this, we essentially send a message to people in this state that one small area is going to dictate the more rural areas on how they will live their lives,” Pirtle said. “We are going to punish individuals who have done nothing wrong, and many of you will sit back and watch it happen.”

For Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Sandoval, the law “pretty clearly abridges the right of a citizen to keep and bear arms for defense,” which he said violates both the US and the New Mexico constitutions.

“What other civil rights are you willing to violate after we pass this one? Maybe we don’t care about the Constitution anymore,” Brandt said. “This is supposed to be a crime bill, yet I haven’t heard anything about how this is supposed to stop crime.”

Brandt and other Republicans also raised the idea that the law would ultimately be struck down under precedent set in the US Supreme Court’s 2022 New York State Rifle Pistol Association v. Bruen ruling, which established a new standard to judge the constitutionality of gun regulation.

Cervantes rejected that conclusion, saying “the issue of gun laws and the Second Amendment is a moving target for us.” He noted that eleven states and the District of Columbia already have waiting periods.

“The earliest we could identify is New Jersey in 1966,” Cervantes said. “None of these have been challenged as unconstitutional.”

Backers have argued throughout the session that the measure would help prevent suicide and “crimes of passion,” such as domestic violence homicides, by creating a “cooling off” period.

Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Bernalillo, asked opposing senators why so few countries have provisions for firearms in their constitutions “if it’s such a great idea,” and added that the United States posts the highest rate of gun homicides of any developed country in the world.

“This country obviously has a gun culture,” Tallman said, “and the high number of guns we have doesn’t make us safer.”

Sens. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas; George Muñoz, D-Gallup; Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City; and Benny Shendo, D-Jemez, joined Republicans in voting against the measure. Sen. Mark Moores, R-Bernalillo, was excused.

The Senate-passed version of the bill contains exemptions for law enforcement agencies; concealed-carry permit holders; a buyer who holds a valid federal firearms license and exchanges between immediate family members. Saturday’s debate, which lasted more than four hours, featured several additional proposals for exemptions—including for active or retired military veterans and for those who had obtained court orders of protection—but none garnered enough support to make the final bill.

Lujan Grisham Communications Director Maddy Hayden tells SFR her office does not plan to comment on the bill until after House concurrence.

Update: On Feb. 12, the House concurred with the Senate amendments.

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