By Zelie Pollon
SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - New Mexico's House of Representatives approved tighter background checks on firearms buyers at gun shows, joining other states in considering more restrictions on weapons following the Connecticut school massacre.
Representatives voted 43-26 on Wednesday to advance the measure, which was expected to be approved by the Democratic-controlled state Senate and Republican Governor Susana Martinez, a gun rights advocate who has said she would sign the bill if it reaches her desk.
"She does not believe there should be a loophole where felons or the mentally ill can avoid a background check by purchasing a firearm at a gun show," said Enrique Knell, the governor's spokesman.
The bill would close a loophole that allows firearms sales between private parties at gun shows without a background check and would require gun shows to have a federal firearms licensed dealer present to process the checks.
The bill exempts people who have a concealed carry permit and no checks would be required under the proposal for sales of antique or replica weapons that do not use cartridges, such as muzzle-loading rifles, shotguns or pistols.
The bill also aims to ensure court records of people with mental illness are reported to the instant background check system for screening gun-buyers.
The measure had advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee with the support of nine Democrats and four Republicans.
"Republicans have opposed most if not all Democratic initiatives in that committee, so it was notable to say the least," said Pat Davis, executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico, an advocacy group that supports the gun control proposal.
State Representative Bill McCamley, a Democrat and gun rights advocate who supported the measure, said it did not infringe on legitimate gun ownership rights.
"I'm a firearms owner and the times I've had to undergo a background check it took less than five minutes for me to get that check done," McCamley said. "We're not talking anything onerous or a blockade of anyone's rights."
Josh Kennedy, an organizer for Gun Rights Across America New Mexico, said he believed the bill would infringe on Second Amendment rights to bear arms and would complicate matters for people whose profession is not selling firearms.
"This bill is not taking any step forward to a safer America. It's just monitoring and that's an invasion of privacy," Kennedy said.
Colorado Democrats recently approved a bill that requires universal background checks on all private sales. The state already required background checks at gun shows.
New York, which already had some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, in January expanded an assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines, and strengthened mental health reporting rules.
(Editing by David Bailey, Daniel Trotta and Lisa Shumaker)