Universal background checks for firearm transfers is one of the most popular gun control agenda items, at least as far as public polling goes. Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris support requiring background checks for private transfers of firearms (commercial firearms transactions are already subject to background checks), and UBC laws are a top priority for gun control activists around the country; not because they’re effective, but precisely because they tend to garner a lot of support in polls.
The problem is that enforcing background checks on private sales is nearly impossible, no matter how many times Shannon Watts or Michael Bloomberg declare them to be “common sense.” The latest evidence of the ineffectiveness and unenforceable nature of the gun control law comes from New Mexico, where the state’s universal background check law was put in place one year ago. How many arrests or charges have been made for violating the law in the past twelve months?
In the first year since that law went into effect on July 1, 2019, court records show that no one was charged with violating the law. “We spent a lot of time, a lot of resources and a lot of money trying to enact this law that’s done absolutely nothing,” said Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace.
As the president of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, Sheriff Mace has been an outspoken opponent of the legislation since lawmakers proposed it in the Roundhouse. Still, when she signed it into law, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham seemed confident that even sheriffs who opposed it would get on board.
“They will enforce this law,” she said. “They will do their job and duty.” However, one year later, Sheriff Mace still told KRQE News 13, “We’re not enforcing it.”
According to the Albuquerque TV station, the only police department they could find that’s attempting to proactively enforce the law is the Albuquerque Police Department.
APD said it has done two sting operations, acting as potential buyers and reaching out to private gun sellers to see if they will require a background check or not. Out of 50 people, they say, they warned roughly ten about the law during the first operation. Then, just two or three during the second operation.
Conducting stings for a misdemeanor offense seems like a waste of time to me, and even with the sting operations the Alburquerque police haven’t made any arrests for violating the law. According to the press secretary for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, however, you can’t judge the effectiveness of the law based on how many prosecutions have taken place. Nora Meyers Sackett told KRQE that recalcitrant sheriffs like Tony Mace are the real issue.
I’ll add, to your saying that ‘no one has been charged under the law’ – I don’t see how that’s a metric as the intent of the law is to require additional background checks, closing those loopholes.
Perhaps if some sheriff’s offices spent a little less time blatantly flouting critical public health policies, they would be more able to invest their time in protecting their communities from gun violence. Although perhaps I shouldn’t hold my breath in thinking that they would want to take action to protect their communities, given that so many of them apparently have no interest in protecting the public from a deadly pandemic.
Sackett sounds a little defensive, doesn’t she?
The fact is that almost every sheriff in the state, along with the rank-and-file members of the Albuquerque PD, opposed the universal background check measure from the get-go, warning that criminals weren’t going to pay any attention to the law in the first place. Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, spoke to KOB-TV in Albuquerque in March of 2019 about the background check bill as it was making its way through the state legislature, and made a bold prediction.
Willoughby said the proposals look good on paper, but he doesn’t believe they will help reduce crime.
“It is a feel-good piece of legislation that is going to be unenforceable,” Willoughby said. “I would be willing to bet you in the next 12 months there will be nobody prosecuted under this particular piece of legislation.”
Here we are twelve months after the law took effect and Willoughby’s been proven right. No arrests, no prosecutions, and no effect on criminals whatsoever. New Mexico’s universal background check law is exactly what critics said it would be; a completely ineffectual law that’s far more about public relations for anti-gun Democrats than public safety for New Mexico residents.