On Sunday, April 7, 2019 the Albuquerque Journal published a lengthy editorial regarding the 2019 New Mexico Legislative session and what it accomplished.
The editorial was entitled “Governor’s Signature On Raft of 2019 Legislation Changes The Sate Landscape In Many Areas”. You can read the complete editorial here for the paragraphs about to be cited:
Not at all surprising, the Albuquerque Journal editorial offers a very conservative and very Republican observation of the session and for that reason merits a point-counter-point to the legislation they editorialized on by a Democrat.
Because of the length of the editorial, this article is the third in a series of four articles to take issue with many of the Journal editorial comments on gun control measures, anti-crime legislation and redacting and expunging criminal records followed by counter points offering a perspective from a Democrats point of view.
JOURNAL EDITORIAL POINT:
“One of the most controversial initiatives the governor took up this session was gun control. The measures she signed drew much support and much criticism, but all are pragmatic, middle-ground reforms that promise to make our communities safer. New Mexico has joined roughly 20 states in requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases, and it now prohibits domestic abusers from possessing a firearm.”
The Journal comment completely ignores that the enacted legislation is the first time ever that the New Mexico legislature has in fact been able to enact meaningful, reasonable gun control legislation. Twenty-eight counties and municipalities in the state have passed “gun sanctuary resolutions” in defiance to the legislative gun control measures. The Albuquerque Journal editorial does not even attempt to encourage local city and county law enforcement to enforce the new laws.
UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR ALL GUN SALES
The 2019 Legislative session enacted nearly universal background checks for all gun sales which is far from being “middle ground” as the Journal characterizes it. The background check legislation was strongly opposed by elected Sheriff’s and other law enforcement agencies throughout the state as being unenforceable and ineffective. Some elected Sheriff’s even went so far as to say they will not enforce the law.
On April 4, 2019, Democrat Attorney General Hector Balderas sent a strongly worded letter of warning to virtually all sheriffs and police chiefs throughout New Mexico telling them that they risk legal liability if they refuse to enforce the new background check law for gun sales. Balderas advised them of their legal obligation to enforce the law and its requirements regardless of whether they agree with the legislation.
In his letter, Balderas acknowledged that sheriffs and police chiefs have discretion over how to run their agencies. However, Balderas reminded the law enforcement command staff that personal political opinions and law enforcement discretion:
“do not absolve us of our duty to enforce validly enacted laws. … As law enforcement officials we do not have the freedom to pick and choose which state laws we enforce. … In short, the taxpayers of your city or county assume the financial risk of your decision to impose your personal views over the law. … [Discretion] cannot subvert the rule of law. All New Mexicans, including public [law enforcement] officials, are equally subject to the law.”
Balderas warned a police chief or sheriff who refuses to enforce the law could be held liable if a gun sale results in a prohibited person obtaining a firearm and doing harm or killing another. Any elected Sheriff who proclaims they will not enforce the law will be basically making an admission of negligence that will no doubt be used in a court of law in a civil action for wrongful death.
Counties and municipalities that have enacted “Second Amendment Gun Sanctuary Resolutions” would better serve their residents and constituencies by promulgating and implementing policy measures and provide funding to help the Sheriffs and Police enforce the law regarding background checks and perhaps fund such services free of charge for their constituents.
For more on this topic see:
FAMILY VIOLENCE PROTECTION ACT
Governor Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 328 which prohibits gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act. The legislation makes it a misdemeanor for people who have restraining orders in domestic violence cases to fail to surrender their guns to law enforcement. The gun possession prohibition also applies to people convicted of other crimes such as battery on a household member.
On September 16, 2017, according to an annual study published by the Violence Policy Center, it was reported women are more likely to be killed by men in New Mexico than nearly any other state. The study found the state has the 10th-highest rate of women killed by men, marking the third straight year New Mexico had appeared toward the top of the list, while New Mexico’s overall homicide rate ranked lower.
The study counted 16 women killed by men in New Mexico during 2015, the most recent year for which data was are available at the time. The rate of 1.52 victims per 100,000 women is higher than the national rate of 1.12. Nearly all the woman killed were by someone they knew. Most of the killings were not connected to any other felony. Half followed arguments between the victim and her killer.
New Mexico has ranked among the top 10 states with the highest rates of women killed by men during the last decade. The Violence Policy Center promotes gun control and found that each state at the top of the list of women killed by men have a high rate of firearm ownership which no doubt includes New Mexico’s gun culture.
For more see the following article links:
The legislation that prohibits gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act has more potential to save lives than the background check legislation, yet it merited less than one sentence of Journal editorial comment.
Study after study has shown that a child who has witnessed domestic violence or a victim of domestic violence become violent abusers themselves, if they survive their own abuse themselves. Increasing CYFD budget and case workers by 125 is a critical need to address New Mexico chronic child abuse crisis.
People are becoming numb to the problem of child abuse and what is reported about what people do to their own children. The recent story of 5-year-old Sarah Dubois-Gilbeau being beaten to death by her father with a rubber “water shoe” still shocks the conscious. According to news stories. “Police say the bruising on the child’s body stretched from her neck to her buttocks, much of which was consistent with ‘the tread of a shoe’.” When in the hell is this going to stop in this City and State? From 2001 to 2016, in New Mexico, no less than 23 children, ranging from ages of 5 weeks old to 3, 4, 5 months old to 3, 4, 5, and 11 years old, have been killed as a result of child physical and sexual abuse. (Re: August 31, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Editorial Guest column by Allen Sanchez.) You can now add this 5-year-old Sarah Dubois-Gilbeau along with the names of 5-year-old Fernando Azofeifa, 5-year-old Victoria Martens, 9 year old Omaree Varela, and 13 year old Jeremiah Valencia.
JOURNAL EDITORIAL POINT:
“Several anti-crime initiatives also received the governor’s signature this session, including expanding pre-prosecution diversion for nonviolent offenders; establishing a data-sharing network so police, prosecutors and other agencies can track offenders who use aliases or commit crimes in different communities; and banning the use of solitary confinement for pregnant or minor inmates and limiting it for those with a serious mental disability.”
Gone during the 2019 legislative session was the “all crime, all the time” legislative session. The former Republican Governor demanded changes in New Mexico’s criminal laws, including reinstatement of the death penalty and repeatedly seeking to toughen criminal sentences for a host of offenses ignoring the root causes of crime: poverty, drug abuse intervention, poor education, unemployment and social intervention. The former Republican Governor never made the transition from an elected District Attorney to Chief Executive Officer of the State as Governor.
Virtually all of the anti-crime legislation enacted by the 2019 legislative session is totally contrary to the “all crime all the time” legislation promoted by the former Republican Governor who only emphasized punishment and incarceration as a solution to New Mexico’s high crime rates.
The legislation passed in the 2019 session is meaningful legislation that will help reduce the state’s high crime rates. The legislation expanding pre-prosecution diversion for nonviolent offenders is a clear reversal from the “lock them up and throw away the key” philosophy dealing with nonviolent offenders that have a good chance of rehabilitation. A data-sharing network so police, prosecutors and other agencies can track offenders is long overdue and brings New Mexico in line with modern day law enforcement practices.
“Banning the use of solitary confinement for pregnant or minor inmates and limiting it for those with a serious mental disability” is an acknowledgement that New Mexico’s correctional institutions have engaged for too many years in “cruel and unusual” punishment prohibited under the United State constitution.
JOURNAL EDITORIAL POINT:
Unfortunately, the governor’s inclination to focus on helping New Mexico’s most vulnerable residents overrode the very serious consequences of redacting information in police reports and expunging criminal records. One point that has not been stressed: In this Facebook and internet world, expunging records does nothing to erase what’s already on the web – allowing claims of charges to be posted online without any way for the public to check if they’re accurate or were dropped.
The Journal’s statement “In this Facebook and internet world, expunging records does nothing to erase what’s already on the web allowing claims of charges to be posted online without any way for the public to check if they’re accurate or were dropped” amount to nothing more than a red herring. This law is a state law and has absolutely no effect on the federal National Crime Information Center (NCIC) which is the United States central database for tracking crime-related information. The arrest and conviction records reported and kept by the Federal NCIC remain virtually unaffected. The redacting of information in police reports and expunging criminal records is long overdue.
All too often when an individual is arrested, and a police report is filed and the defendant is never prosecuted nor found guilty by a jury, the offense report remains intact with the presumption that what is said in the offense report is absolutely true which all too often not the case. Prosecutors frequently find false or misleading statements in offense reports that mandate that no charges be filed or that a case be dismissed.
The expunging of state criminal records is important when dealing with highly dated convictions of a person who later lives an otherwise crime free life. The best example of criminal records that should be expunged are DWI convictions of a very young person who then lives the rest of their life without any convictions, but the DWI record pops up 20 to 25 years later in a background check for a new job. Notwithstanding expunging of records, criminal convictions will remain as part of a person’s conviction record and the NCIC.
Stay tuned for chapter four dealing with “energy transition”, minimum wage, right to work, ethics commission and hemp legislation.
You can review all four “Point-Counter-Point With The Albuquerque Journal” articles by clicking on the below links: