Updated: Jan 28
A bill (HR 101) introduced in the 2023 State of New Mexico legislature by Democrat Andrea Romero, with the encouragement of Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham, will ban so called "assault weapons" and magazines that hold 10 or more rounds. There is no compensation or grandfather clause for existing privately owned firearms and magazines that fall under this bill. When I use the terms defined in the bill it does not mean I agree with terminology used.
If enacted into law, current owners of many semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and hand guns have until July 1, 2023 to (I quote):
remove the assault weapon from the state;
render the assault weapon permanently inoperable; or
surrender the assault weapon to the appropriate law enforcement agency for destruction.
There are similar provisions for magazines that hold 10 rounds or more:
remove the large-capacity magazine from the state;
sell the large-capacity magazine to a licensed firearms dealer; or
surrender the large-capacity magazine to a law enforcement agency for destruction.
Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a fourth degree felony which will prevent them from owning any firearms in any state.
What is an "Assault Weapon"?
People disagree as to what an "assault weapon" is or even if such a think actually exists. Obviously, any weapon can be used in an assault. The classic example of a so called "assault rifle" in our modern times is the AR-15. Afterall, AR stands for Assault Rifle right? Wrong. AR stands for ArmaLite (the original manufacturer) Rifle. This term is applied to MANY semi-automatic firearms in a random, pernicious, and subjective fashion.
NM HB 101 has lengthy definitions of what an "Assault Weapon" is including many semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns. These definitions will include a large variety of modern and historic firearms that current owners will no longer be able to keep in New Mexico. It seems what they are really want to ban is most semi-automatic firearms.
Obviously, the first question about this or any new firearms law should be "Is this constitutional?"
Unfortunately, these days, constitutionality no longer seems to be an issue with legislators, government executives, and unelected bureaucrats in the "administrative state." Despite supreme court decisions in support of the plain written language interpretation of the 2nd amendment as an individual right, there are still arguments regarding limitations of that right. The latest discussion of those rights can be found in the Bruen Decision.
I cannot speak to legal decisions of the supreme court and lower courts but it does seem the constitution is being interpreted as protecting the rights of law-abiding decisions to keep in bear arms. Some of the latest supreme court decisions have indicated that the second amendment ...
protects the individual right to possess firearms, including handguns, that are in common use by law-abiding persons for lawful purposes (Heller decision)
protects "all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding," and "arms" by definition "covers modern instruments that facilitate armed self-defense ..." (Bruen decision)
The above two decisions have in fact vacated lower court rulings that upheld an "assault weapon" ban and magazine bans.
The New Mexico constitution seems to make it clear this new law would be unconstitutional at the state level as well:
"No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms."
However, the New Mexico supreme court is overwhelmingly Democrat controlled so, once again, constitutionality is probably not a major consideration for these law makers.
Whether constitutionality will matter in the voting on this bill remains to be seen. We may be forced after the fact, at great taxpayer expense, to challenge this new law in court. It seems the constitutionality of a similar law in the state of Illinois did not matter to the democrat legislators and governor. Their response to questions of constitutionality were "we'll see you in court." The Illinois law only applies to future sales so it does not go nearly as far as the New Mexico bill which is essentially a confiscation without remuneration bill.
A similar, but much less restrictive high-capacity magazine ban is still working its way through the courts: Judge who blocked California's ban on high-capacity magazines halts their sales for now (nbcnews.com)
A logical next question should be "will an asault weapons ban reduce crime?"
There are many studies on this subject including the following. These are certainly debatable in and of themselves and require digging to find the faults and/or perceived faults of each study.
However, I think it can be easily addressed using basic intuition and logic. Will disarming law-abiding citizens stop those with criminal intent from using semi-automatic firearms and "large capacity" mags in crimes? Do criminals currently abide by existing gun laws? I think the answers are obvious.
What might discourage the use of firearms in crimes? How about enforcement of existing laws against "gun violence?" How about stopping catch and release with little to no penalties for criminal acts? I am not seeing this sort of solution in the current legislative session.
Is it right to force people to turn in for destruction legally purchased property?
Not only does this seem right but it also seems unconstitutional under the fourth and fifth amendments. However, under Civil (not Criminal) Forfeiture, that right seems to be much eroded. It seems logical that if this law is passed mere possession of these items becomes a crime and they can be seized by law enforcement.
Unlike other court proceedings, victims of asset seizure under forfeiture laws have to prove their own innocence, and have a very short time, usually 10 days, to initiate proceedings to prove their property’s innocence.
It seems inevitable that, constitutional or not, people will lose their property and/or freedoms and possibly even their lives if this bill is passed and signed into law. Unfortunately, as it stands now, one party control of all legislative and executive branches in New Mexico might cause this to pass.
So, what are we to do about this?
If we don't agree with it we must stop it before if becomes law.
Contact your legislators (Find My Legislator - New Mexico Legislature (nmlegis.gov)) and let them know what you think about it.
Attend hearings on it!
Follow the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association for the latest updates and calls to action
Please feel free to respond here with any comments.
1/28/2023 Update - Visit to local gun show today
AR 15 sales were booming this morning at today's gun show in Albuquerque, New Mexico despite the pending gun and magazine confiscation legislation:
I went to the show half expecting to see individuals trying to dump their so called "assault rifles" before the gun confiscation bills are signed into law. What I found instead were huge crowds of buyers. There were more people at the show this morning than I have seen at gun shows in many years. The aisles were packed with people. Many of them just looking and a lot were buyinThe dealers told me sales are hot for AR 15s. One dealer told me he sold 23 ARs so far that morning. It was only 10:00 and this is the first day of a two day gun show.
Speaking to some of the buyers I found they were well aware that legislation calling for the confiscation of their newly purchased firearms was in the works. I heard comments like "good luck" trying to confiscate these firearms or "let them try to get mine." One buyer told me he had no interest in ARs until certain democrats introduced legislation to ban them. These buyers do not seem to be afraid of these gun confiscation bills.
Unfortunately, none of them told me they are contacting their state legislators so I am not sure our state legislators are aware of this resentment. Several times I heard it was of no use and "we are outnumbered" anyway. It seems that these buyers are resolved to become felons if the legislation passes.
I guess the second amendment still means something to these people but they are not willing to tell that to our local politicians.