Councilor Bushee proposes city ammo restrictions
Jan 12, 2013 (The Santa Fe New Mexican - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
As Santa Fe begins its effort to get firearms off the city's streets in the wake of last month's Newtown, Conn., school shooting, Councilor Patti Bushee has proposed banning "large-capacity ammunition feeding devices," over the objection of the city attorney.
Bushee's proposed ordinance, introduced Wednesday night, would prohibit within the city limits the possession, sale or transfer of clips, magazines, drums or belts capable of handling more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Exceptions would be made for "an attached tubular device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with .22-caliber rimfire ammunition" as well as any large-capacity ammunition feeding device possessed within the city before the ordinance becomes law.
Additional exceptions are made for law enforcement, security of nuclear materials, retired police officers who obtained such devices upon their retirement and licensed manufacturers or importers who have such devices "for the purposes of testing or experimentation authorized by the Attorney General."
The proposed ordinance begins by saying that large-capacity ammunition feeding devices were used in mass shootings in Tucson, Ariz., at Virgina Tech, at Fort Hood in Texas and at Columbine High School in Colorado, "but they are not useful for hunting or self-defense."
Violation of the proposed ordinance would be punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
Bushee did not return messages asking about her proposal, but she noted in introducing it that she disagreed with City Attorney Geno Zamora.
In a Dec. 20 memo to Mayor David Coss, Zamora said the state constitution prohibits cities from regulating guns and ammunition.
Section 6 of Article II of the New Mexico Constitution -- sandwiched between provisions for the preservation of rights from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and habeas corpus -- says: "No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms."
But a lawyer advising Bushee, former city councilor Steven Farber, now a member of the city Home Rule Charter Commission, disagreed with Zamora's interpretation.
"To my knowledge there is absolutely nothing in the state constitutional provisions regarding the right to bear arms that limits the ability of a city or county by ordinance to regulate the possession of high capacity magazines that carry excessive ammunition," Farber wrote in an email to a New Mexican reporter last month.
In a telephone interview Friday, Farber said the constitutional provision applies to firearms, but not to ammunition devices, and that Zamora's interpretation is a "stretch" because banning such devices would not interfere with owning and trading firearms.
Zamora, in his memo, wrote that the gun issue came up in 1992, when Bushee and others introduced a resolution encouraging gun shop owners to sell trigger locks with every firearm sold. He suggested that instead of trying to regulate firearms, city officials should lobby state and federal representatives for stricter gun laws.
Mayor Coss plans to join other mayors in Washington, D.C., next week to call on President Barack Obama and Congress to take steps to end gun violence by requiring every person who buys a gun to pass a criminal background check, to restrict high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, and to make gun trafficking a federal crime.
Coss will talk about the proposals and a new national ad demanding common-sense gun reforms at 9 a.m. Monday in the training room of police headquarters.
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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