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Monday, December 22, 2014

Stalled gun control bill returns to the legislative process, this time in step with federal laws, House vote set for Wednesday

news@dailylobo.com

The once-defeated Firearms Transfer Act has returned to active debate in the Legislature after it was revised to focus exclusively on gun shows.

The first version of House Bill 77, which aimed to increase restrictions on firearms purchased in New Mexico, stalled in the House two weeks ago after its provisions were deemed overbroad and excessively restrictive by a fiscal impact report.

The amended HB 77, sponsored by Rep. Miguel Garcia (D-Albuquerque), passed through the House Judiciary Committee on Friday night, 13-3. It is slated to be debated by the full House on Wednesday.

In addition to narrowing the legal focus to gun shows, the revision scraps the proposed New Mexico-specific legal definitions for who may or may not possess a firearm and instead relies on the federal legal standard, the Brady Act.

The first draft of HB 77 contained two provisions: denying people a firearm if they are under 18 years of age or if they are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm under federal law.

The revision adds several provisions regarding gun sales at gun shows that are present in federal but not state law.

In the revision, non-federally licensed firearms dealers may not transfer firearms to non-federally licensed buyers or buyers who don’t have a New Mexico concealed handgun carry permit, unless the transfer is overseen by a federally licensed dealer. The licensed dealer is then responsible for stopping the transfer if the subsequent background check reveals the buyer is prohibited from firearm possession.

It also provides background-check exemptions for buyers purchasing “antique or relic firearms.”

The revision also makes it a misdemeanor to transfer a firearm to an unlicensed buyer or to a person known to be prohibited from possessing a firearm, and makes it a petty misdemeanor for an organizer of a gun show to fail to arrange for one or more federally licensed firearms dealers to be on the premises during the show.

Finally, it establishes the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System as the system used to verify prospective purchasers’ eligibility and eliminates the creation of a New Mexico criminal background check system proposed in the original bill.

In Senate news, UNM Medical School faculty could see their pay rise and the UNM Health Sciences Center could get the resources to support additional nursing students if the two bills proposing such measures pass.

On Friday, Senate Bill 53, “Retain UNM Medical School Faculty,” and Senate Bill 57, “UNM Health Center Nursing Enrollment”, both sponsored by Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort (R-Sandia Park), passed unanimously through the Senate Education Committee. Both bills are scheduled to be heard next in the Senate Finance Committee, hearing date to be determined.

SB 53 would appropriate $1.3 million to raise UNM Medical School faculty salaries to meet the national average. According to the fiscal impact report, recently hired faculty members are paid more than long-time faculty. A cited report released last year by the Association of American Medical Colleges showed that UNM Medical School faculty salaries are “well below” the national average. The appropriation would allow faculty salaries to rise to within the top 25th percentile of salaries on the AAMC scale.

SB 57 seeks to increase the number students who graduate from the UNM family nurse practitioner program by appropriating $2.8 million to expand that nursing program. The fiscal impact report for the bill states the program regularly turns down qualified applicants due to a lack of resources to support more students.

The additional funding would allow the program to support 24 students for academic year 2013-2014, and 48 total students for academic year 2014-2015, up from the 10 students for academic year 2012-2013.