Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Inter-Mountain Western States Senior Coordinator
New Mexico Senate Bill 224 – Crime of Failure to Secure Firearm (SB 224) would make it illegal for children under 12 years of age to access or handle a firearm, period. Additionally, any child 12 to 18-years-old would not be allowed to handle or have access to a firearm unless completing an undefined “firearm safety course.” In addition to unnecessarily limiting parents’ ability to introduce their kids to hunting and recreational shooting at ages widely accepted across the nation, SB 224 would have a devasting impact on scholastic recreational shooting programs and is in direct conflict with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) Mentored-Youth Hunting Program and Hunter Education.
The NMDGF’s Hunter Education Program allows New Mexico residents 10-years-of-age and older to earn their hunter education certification completely online, while the traditional in-person hunter education classes allow children under 10 to participate with a parent, legal guardian, or responsible adult. Interest in traditional outdoor sporting activities has increased due to COVID-19 and more families are taking to the outdoors to engage in safe and responsible recreation. As a direct result, more individuals of all ages are registering for hunter education than in recent history.
In addition to hunter education, the Mentored-Youth Hunting Program is a successful hunter recruitment program that allows first-time hunters 8 to 17-years-of-age to purchase a game-hunting License or game-hunting & Fishing License before taking a hunter education course and hunt under a mentor’s supervision. By doing so, children have more opportunities for formative hunting experiences that will serve as the necessary stepping stones in the journey to becoming a lifelong conservationist that contributes to natural resource stewardship through the American System of Conservation Funding.
If allowed to pass, SB 224 would be disastrous to New Mexico’s scholastic shooting programs, hunter recruitment efforts, and have a far-reaching negative impact on state-based conservation and funding by not allowing children to engage in safe and responsible hunting and shooting activities.
SB 224 is being heard tomorrow in the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee at 1:30 PM. Submit comments to committee members ahead of tomorrow’s meeting here.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?