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Concealed carry law

This year's legislative session brought changes to the state's concealed gun laws, including reduced limits on age and caliber

By Steve Aikens

The changes to New Mexico's Right to Carry gun law that were adopted during the 2005 legislative session took effect June 17.

Significant progress was made during the session, but there are some issues that remain unresolved. Some of the initiatives ended with less than completely desirable results for concealed-carry advocates.

We succeeded in getting the minimum age for concealed carry lowered from 25 to 21. This is a big step forward, but still we need to recognize that this minimum age fails to address our military personnel in the 18-to-20 age group. They are trained for combat and expected to use firearms, putting their lives on the line to defend their country. Yet they are not trusted to carry a concealed firearm to defend themselves or their families here in New Mexico.

I believe we need to address that gap by honoring our commitment to our military with an exemption for people in that age group, if they're on active duty with a service commitment that extends past their 21st birthday.

We made a common-sense change in the caliber-qualification requirement. Now, a licensee can qualify with a large-caliber firearm and is authorized then to carry any lesser caliber of the same category - that is, semiautomatic or revolver.

I am not aware of any other state that has a caliber limitation in its laws. States requiring firearms qualifications usually require that you must qualify only in the category of firearm - meaning the type of action it uses, semiautomatic or revolver - that you wish to carry. New Mexico simply should do the same.

A limitation was added in New Mexico saying a licensee may carry only one concealed firearm at a time. That limitation is ridiculous, in that licensees often carry a primary and a backup firearm. In New Mexico, they can't legally do so.

Our legislators can't seem to understand these licensees are the most trustworthy residents of our state.

We did extend the period of licensure here from two to four years. That's a more reasonable period. But there was a "refresher" clause added so that the carrier must be certified every two years.

No other state has a mid-term "refresher." If you're going to license someone for four years, the "refresher" should simply be his or her renewal at four years.

A major success was establishing authority for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety to enter into reciprocal agreements with certain other states whose requirements are at least as stringent as, or substantially similar to, New Mexico's law.

A major failure was our inability to address the alcohol-establishment issue. Under the law, a licensee may not carry a concealed firearm into any licensed alcohol establishment. Doing so would turn the most law-abiding, trustworthy citizen in the state into a felon.

That means licensees must disarm before shopping for groceries - going into a Wal-Mart, for example, or trying to pay for gas inside a convenience store if it sells alcohol. Not only is this an encouragement to those that have no respect for the law and find safe havens to rob or injure others in such establishments, it also requires a licensee to leave a firearm unattended in his or her vehicle.

No one suggests firearms and alcohol consumption go together. What we do believe is that when alcohol isn't dispensed for consumption on the premises, licensees should be able to carry on with their daily lives, unhindered by an outdated law.

Regarding grandfathering: Licenses issued under the former law must adhere to the former provisions. But when a license issued before June 17 is renewed, it will fall under the new provisions of the law.

In compliance with the U.S. Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004, the New Mexico Legislature added provisions to allow current and retired - within 10 years - certified law enforcement officers to apply for a concealed carry license at no cost, if they so desire.

The Department of Public Safety is in the process of updating changes to the law at its Web site: www.dps.nm.org.


http://www.abqtrib.com/albq/op_commentaries/article/0,2565,ALBQ_19866_3923587,00.html

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