In 2019, the New Mexico legislature passed legislation that curtails the 2nd Amendment rights of New Mexicans.
Unfortunately, the law is in place now. And, the prospects for overturning the legislation are dim. Sadly, that’s not a surprise, given the current batch of elected state officials.
However, the persistence of the New Mexico legislature in the face of legitimate resistance from a significant portion of the population and local law enforcement is more concerning than the legislation itself. And, we’ll get to that.
As with all things related to the 2nd Amendment, there are a few things to talk about in regard to this new legislation.
What does the legislation mean?
This has been covered fairly extensively. So this will be brief.
Senate Bill 8 could be called “universal background checks.” This bill requires a background check for nearly all gun sales.
There were two other bills—Senate Bill 83 and Senate Bill 87—which were not passed into law. That’s good news for 2A rights. These bills were overreaching on their own. But, there was potential for these laws to be abused.
But, Senate Bill 8 still stands. And, the New Mexico Secretary of State has rejected the request to petition the bill. So, it’s likely to stay in place.
Now that it’s here, how will SB 8 affect you?
How does Senate Bill 8 affect people?
Universal background checks have been on the table for quite a while. And, they’ve gained enough support that universal background check laws have been passed in a few states which have been historically pro 2nd Amendment states.
A similar law was recently passed in Nevada. And, it was met with similar resistance from local law enforcement agencies. But, Nevada peace officers had objections to the universal background check laws that went beyond concerns about direct 2nd Amendment violations.
First, the law is essentially unenforceable. And, that’s not because the law enforcement agencies are underfunded, inadequate, or incompetent.
Universal background check laws are unenforceable simply because the demands of enforcing universal background checks is unrealistic.
Think about it: a person sells a gun to another person in their garage. They don’t perform a background check. There’s no way for law enforcement officers to know, unless the person who bought the gun gets caught with it. And, if the buyer is caught, it’s most likely because they were committing some other crime with the gun or while in possession of the gun.
At that point, failing to get a background check will either not be prosecuted in favor of prosecuting the other crime or crimes, if they are more severe. Or the background check violation will just get added on top of another sentence.
Either way, universal background checks rely almost entirely on voluntary compliance. So, SB 8 isn’t a life saving measure. It will most likely become a way for judges to tack extra years onto sentences.
The second concern with universal background checks is the potential for them to be a loophole for the 4th Amendment.
Now, before we get into this, there are two things to note about New Mexico’s laws:
- Giving firearms to immediate family members does not appear to be a violation of SB 8.
- Violating SB 8 is considered a misdemeanor.
Based on these two things, the chances for SB 8 to be an immediate workaround for the 4th Amendment is extremely low.
The concern is that lawmakers will make SB 8 broader and stricter if the current law fails to achieve the effect they want. If violating SB 8 is upgraded to a more serious crime and giving firearms to immediate family members becomes a crime, then simply having friends or family members over while you have guns in the house could become problematic.
Having people over could be considered probable cause if you own guns.
What’s really going to happen?
Now, all this isn’t to be alarmist.
Will the police come search your house because you have people over? Very unlikely.
Would it any evidence hold up in court if police officers found it while searching your home because you had people over while having guns in the house? Even more unlikely. But your house already got searched. That’s a bummer whether or not you’re convicted of anything.
In all reality, you probably won’t even notice that SB 8 exists right now.
But, whether or not we notice new laws like this right now isn’t the point.
We bring the 4th Amendment issue up is because it illustrates how all the constitutional amendments work together. You can’t breach one amendment without weakening or nullifying other amendments.
When someone says that all the other amendments depend on the 2nd Amendment, it’s because other amendments like the 1st and 4th Amendments would have to be violated in order to enforce laws created to breach the 2nd Amendment.
That’s a problem whether you own guns or not.
So, are they coming for your guns right now? No.
Will your life be changed by SB 8? Probably not.
But, laws like SB 8 erode individual freedoms and justify increases in state oversight and powers of enforcement. Lawmakers have demonstrated their willingness to chip away at those individual freedoms and gather more power for the state, if it furthers their ends.
And, if that erosion and expansion of power continues for too long, it might get to something that even people who don’t own or care about guns do care about, like the 1st or 4th or 5th Amendments.