Extensive advocacy work by proponents of stronger gun regulations in New Mexico has led to a new law that will require federal background checks for most gun purchases, including online sales and at gun shows.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who took office in January, signed Senate Bill 8 into law on Friday. It will take effect in July.
“We all have a constitutional right to be safe in our homes and communities,” Lujan Grisham said, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
At an emotional signing ceremony, the governor was accompanied by several young people, law enforcement officials, and gun reform advocates, the Associated Press reported.
“After years of working to pass this legislation and elect a gun sense majority, our volunteers have become a political powerhouse in the statehouse,” Moms Demand Action on Gun Violence in America founder Shannon Watts tweeted in response.
New Mexico, which has one of the country’s highest rates of firearm deaths per capita, joins more than 20 other states with similar regulations on firearms sales.
Under federal law, people convicted of felonies are not allowed to own a firearm.
According to the Journal, the new law will not apply to gun sales between close family members and members of law enforcement.
The bill narrowly passed in the state Senate, and it has faced strong pushback from some gun owners and state law enforcement officials, many who have said they will refuse to allocate resources to enforce it.
The newspaper noted that at least 25 counties in New Mexico have “Second Amendment sanctuary” ordinances to oppose gun reform, and most of the state’s county sheriffs oppose the new law.
“I really think next year we’ll be back at the Legislature, saying, ‘Well that didn’t’ work, what do we do now?’” Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace told the AP.
Lujan Grisham responded to critics on Friday by saying, “It’s clear the NRA isn’t going to stop trying to meddle in making this a safer state.”
Enforcement of the law, however, is a valid concern. “How will law enforcement know if buyers and sellers are even bothering to follow the law?” KRQE News 13 asked in a column on its website. “This law seems to heavily rely on the honor system. It will also rely on sheriffs enforcing a law they have come out against, which is something the governor addressed Friday.”
Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier responded to the concerns by telling the Journal, “There are a number of avenues we could use.”