Making Law Abiding New Mexicans Into Felons Is Extremism And Unlikely To Change Gun Deaths In The State

Image depicting outcome if the proposed laws to criminalize currently legal guns and magazines pass. At top is a Winchester Wildcat in 22lr with 10 rounds of 22lr ammunition. At bottom is a Glock style pistol with 9 rounds of 9mm ammunition. Courtesy Michael Ham

Los Alamos

nder two proposed laws that would criminalize the possession of many currently legal guns and magazines, a Glock style semi-automatic pistol with 9 round magazines would remain legal. As we have seen recently in California [1], adding more gun control laws results in vastly diminishing returns to public safety. My hope is after reading this piece you will contact your representatives [7] to let them know that making a currently legal activity a felony is extreme and only creates more crimes to prosecute, not less. The classic example of this effect are draconian drug laws surrounding marijuana that New Mexico has been working to undo. 

Background: In the House there are two bills which will turn objects that New Mexican’s legally own and purchase in the state today into a felony offense if found in possession of after July 1, 2023. Those laws are extremely unlikely to change gun deaths in the state as I will explain below. 

The two bills are HB 50 [2] and HB 101 [3]. HB 50 would criminalize the possession of magazines with greater than 9 round capacity and provides $1.5M to incarcerate offenders who, as a reminder, are legally in possession of these magazines today. 

HB 101 would criminalize the possession of magazines with more than 10 round capacity and what are termed ‘assault weapons.’ 

Under both laws, a Glock style pistol with 9 a round magazine would be legal (see image). Let’s now look at the data and ask whether creating a felony out of the guns that people own today would result in a drop of deaths, the easiest proxy of gun related crimes to track. Below I link to the pro-gun control Everytown data sheet on New Mexico for 2020 [4], the latest I could find. The vast majority, 67%, are suicides, which neither law would likely reduce. Of the 120 homicides committed with a gun, I see no evidence that criminalizing the ‘assault weapons’ is likely to reduce them in any significant way when the Glock handgun is legal under both laws. 

In support of this claim, let’s examine two recent high-profile cases. Recently in town there was a tragic murder suicide that was committed by a felon who was not legally allowed to own a gun [5]. 

Then there is the case of politically motivated assassination attempts carried out by a felon who could not legally own a gun [6]. Fortunately, he was unsuccessful. In a bit of irony the AR-15 ‘assault weapon’ he illegally possessed malfunctioned. The Glock worked. 

In conclusion, like all responsible gun owner I want to reduce gun related crimes. However, HB 50 and HB 101 are unlikely to do so. What they will do is create criminals out of currently legal law-abiding citizens who are unaware of this law or choose to ignore the demand that hundreds and thousands of dollars in property be removed from the state or destroyed without compensation from the state.

When you contact your legislators [7] I hope you’ll also encourage them to spend time evaluating why the current gun laws are failing to prevent crimes [5,6] and have honest discussions with the public about ways to reduce these deaths. 


[2] HB 50:

[3] HB 101