In the wake of the tragic fatal school shooting that killed 13-year-old Bennie Hargrove at Washington Middle School last Friday, state lawmakers are once again pushing for a child access prevention law. The legislation would hold gun owners to a greater degree of responsibility for safely storing their guns to prevent access by a minor. More than half of U.S. states have a child access prevention law in place.
Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Alb) plans to introduce the bill and advocate that the governor put it on the call for the 2022 legislative session in Jan. Four representatives have also joined Sedillo Lopez in calling for greater gun legislation: Rep. Pamelya Herndon (D-Alb), Rep. Meredith Dixon (D-Alb), Rep. Joy Garratt (D-Alb) and Rep. Debra M. Sariñana (D-Alb).
The bill would focus primarily on two objectives: preventative education and consequences for improper storage. If passed the bill will mandate the addition of child access prevention components to gun safety curriculum. The curriculum will also educate gun owners on the consequences of failing to lock up firearms, focusing on preventable shootings in which a minor came into possession of a firearm due to improper storage of a firearm.
Sedillo Lopez has introduced similar legislation before and has seen it die in the Senate Judiciary Committee. She hopes this time it will pass with the support of other sponsors. “The greatest pushback to the bill is that opponents claim that it’s unconstitutional, as they believe it would allow for law enforcement to search people’s homes or take away their Second Amendment rights,” she said. Sedillo Lopez is adamant that the bill will not infringe on the rights of New Mexico gun owners. The bill’s main goal is intended to protect minors from obtaining a firearm through negligence, and will only hold gun owners to greater accountability if their firearm is involved in a shooting. “They have safety regulations for squirt guns and toys, why wouldn’t they have laws for regulating access to handguns?” Sedillo Lopez said.
Similar legislation was introduced by the Albuquerque City Council but failed to pass.