A new piece of legislation in New Mexico could criminalize parents and other adults for allowing children under the age of 12 to use their firearms at a gun range.
Billed as a “safe storage” policy, the legislation (SB 224) creates an “authorized user” category, which it defines as “an individual who has been specifically granted permission to have access to the firearm.” Minors may only be authorized users if they are at least 12 years old and have successfully passed a “firearm safety training course.”
The New Mexico Shooting Sports Association blasted the legislation in an article in the Pinon Post.
The “storage mandate” in the bill “would make it a crime for a child to handle your firearm unless the child was 12 or older and had previously completed a firearms safety class. You would become a criminal for taking your child to go shooting if they had not previously taken some kind of formal class,” the group said.
“The bill is an uneducated attempt to demonize firearms,” they added. “It is already a crime to place a child in a situation that endangers their life, this law does nothing to add to a child’s safety.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, denied in an email to GunsAmerica that the legislation would prohibit children from shooting a firearm — as long as they were accompanied by their parents.
“Teaching a child to use a gun would not be prohibited under this bill because the gun would be under the parent’s control,” she said. “It would discourage a parent from authorizing a child under 12 use parents gun without supervision.”
According to the bill’s language, firearms must remain in the “direct control” of the owner or authorized user if they are not in a locked container. The bill defines “direct control” as keeping a firearm “within an arm’s length of the firearm’s owner or other authorized person.”
Along with creating the “authorized user” category, the legislation criminalizes gun owners who do not store their firearms in such a manner that they cannot be accessed or used by an unauthorized user. If the owner or authorized user “reasonably should have known” that a minor, “at-risk person,” or prohibited person could have accessed the firearm, the owner or user will be subject to a misdemeanor charge and a fine.
The legislation defines “at-risk person” as a person “who has made statements or exhibited behavior that indicates to a reasonable person there is a likelihood that the person is at risk of attempting suicide or causing physical harm to that person or others.”
If the minor, at-risk person, or prohibited person uses the firearm to commit a crime or injure another person, the owner could spend up to a year in jail or pay up to $1000.
Sen. Sedillo Lopez is a staunch anti-gun activist who has been endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action. She recently re-tweeted a post from a supporter, saying, “Survivors inspire me!”
Survivors inspire me! https://t.co/AdloaR6Z3X— Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (@ASL4Justice4all) February 3, 2021