New Mexicans weigh impact of proposed firearm legislation
During this year’s legislative session, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham called on state lawmakers to pass legislation focusing on public safety, including a package of bills focusing on firearms.
"In communities across the state, we have seen the carnage that results, and the risk that is ever-present when weapons of war, and frankly, guns, are far too easy to obtain,” Lujan Grisham said.
Some proposed bills include a mandatory waiting period for purchasing guns, raising the minimum purchasing age to 21, and a complete ban on certain semi-automatic firearms entirely.
Leighanne Muñoz is a student at New Mexico State University and the leader of New Mexico’s branch of Students Demand Action. She said she’s been involved in multiple active-shooter lockdowns throughout her upbringing in Las Cruces, and wants future generations to grow up without that fear.
“I was in second grade, and I do remember that one more vividly. I remember us not knowing what to do, not knowing what was going on other than that we were in danger,” she said.
Muñoz said that she is in favor of responsible firearm ownership, and current legislation is a good place to start a dialogue around New Mexico’s gun regulations.
“We are now known as the lockdown generation, the mass shooting generation. And that really isn’t fair to young people when it’s totally preventable,” she said.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Mexico is third in the nation in Firearm Mortality per capita, with 578 firearm deaths in 2021. According to a 2023 report by the New Mexico Department of Health, the most common type of death involving a firearm was suicide.
But some New Mexicans say they are wary that additional regulation would have any positive impact. Bill Parshall is a state-certified firearm instructor, and said gun laws like mandatory waiting periods won’t be effective in preventing firearms-related deaths, including suicide.
“To think that somebody is going to wake up one morning and say, ‘You know what? Today’s a good day to kill myself, I think I’m going to go and buy a gun.’ I think it’s a little ridiculous.”
Parshall said lawmakers should focus on the prosecution of individuals breaking current laws, rather than additional gun regulation.
“Criminals need to be put away, and law-abiding citizens need to quit being harassed,” he said. “There is no such thing as gun violence. There is violence committed with a gun and those are called crimes. And what we can do to address those is put those persons that are committing these crimes in jail and keeping them away from the public.”
But some local officials, including Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart, do see gun regulation as beneficial to public safety. The Sheriff said mandatory waiting periods and magazine restrictions could go a long way in assisting first responders prevent and react to situations involving active shooters. Additionally, she said stepping up enforcement of laws already in place is also needed.
“There are gun laws that DAs, seemingly minor gun laws, that could be enforced. District Attorneys could be more proactive,” she said. “But again, I think that’s something where we as a profession need to be much more vociferous about, much more insistent.”
Sheriff Stewart said she hopes representatives at all levels continue the dialogue on the issues surrounding gun regulation.
“These bills in and of themselves may not be the perfect answer, but parts of them may be where we need to look and where we need to come together as Americans on this topic. Gun safety [and] responsible gun ownership should not be mutually exclusive from the Second Amendment,” she said. “Responsible gun ownership, education about guns, that type of legislation should be something all Americans can come behind.”
As the debate surrounding gun legislation in New Mexico continues, it remains unclear if New Mexicans can find common ground in balancing gun rights with regulations aimed at reducing firearm-related deaths.