On February 2, an Albuquerque Journal Poll published an opinion poll it commissioned with Research & Polling Inc. The poll was conducted from January 31 through February 4. According to the Journal report, the poll was based on a scientific, statewide sample of 515 New Mexico adults representative of the age, gender, race and geographical region of the state’s adult population. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage.
The telephone poll found slim majority of adults in New Mexico support a red flag law that would allow for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others with 52% of adults in support of such a the law and 37% opposed with 11% saying they had mixed feelings, said it depends or wouldn’t say.
The question asked was:
“The New Mexico Legislature is considering a bill known as a Red Flag Law. This law will allow enforcement officers to temporarily remove guns from people who have been found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others.
“Supporters say this bill would reduce gun violence including suicides and lessen the risk of shootings, while opponents say it would deny people their due process and their constitutional right to bear arms, without having committed a crime.
“Do you support or oppose this Red Flag Law?”
Quoting the Albuquerque Journal report:
“The poll showed strikingly different support levels among men and women and by party affiliation. Support for the firearms proposal was 63% among women and 64% among Democrats. Just 41% of men and 30% of Republicans supported the bill.
The Journal Poll also shows substantial geographic variation – with support highest in the Albuquerque area and north-central New Mexico, including Santa Fe. Attitudes were more divided on the east side of the state and in the northwest, where more adults opposed the bill than supported it.
The Journal Poll found significant differences in support for the bill among men and women. Support was 63% among women, with just 26% opposed. Among men, 47% were opposed and 41% in favor. Registered voters were about as likely as the broader adult population to support the bill.
Support for the bill among Democrats was 64%, and 60% of Republicans opposed it. Independent voters – or those affiliated with a minor party – had support levels roughly in line with the broader adult population, with 50% in favor and 37% opposed.
Adults in the Albuquerque area were more likely to support the law than people in the state overall. Support was 57% in the Albuquerque area, or about twice the level of opposition.
Opposition to the bill ran higher on the east side of the state, near Texas, where 49% of those surveyed opposed the law and 45% supported it. In northwestern New Mexico – including Farmington and parts of the Navajo Nation – opposition was 49%, with support at 43%.”
You can read the entire Albuquerque Journal Report and analyst here:
SENATE BILL 5
Senate Bill 5, entitled the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, sometimes called a “red flag” law was pre -filed on January 8 ahead of the 2020 Legislative session. Under the original Senate Bill 5, a relative, household member or law enforcement officer would file a sworn affidavit and petition in state District Court seeking an extreme-risk protection order to prohibit someone from possessing firearms who pose a serious threat to themselves or others. The affidavit provided by a household member or relative would have to provide “ probable cause” to believe someone “poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others.” In terms of the protection order, “probable cause” is evidence presented showing it is more likely than not that that someone “poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others.”
The petitioner would have to disclose whether there’s any other pending legal action between the two parties. A judge could then issue a 15-day emergency order to seize the weapons and ammunition from that person. There would also an option for a one-year firearm prohibition, based on a “preponderance of evidence” to determine if there was a need for a one-year order. When the court order expires, the guns and ammunition would then be returned to the individual.
Once presented with evidence of probable cause, a judge could then issue a 15-day emergency order to seize the weapons and ammunition from that person and would schedule a hearing to determine if there was a need for a one-year order. When the court order expires, the guns and ammunition would then be returned to the individual. Seventeen states have enacted red flag laws.
SENATE PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE ACTION
On January 28, after more than two hours of emotional testimony, Senate Bill 5 entitled the “Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act” passed the Senate Public Affairs Committee on a party-line vote of 4 Democrats for and 3 Republicans against. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces, Representative Damon Ely of Corrales and Representative Joy Garratt of Albuquerque. The legislation is backed by Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who added it to the agenda of the 30-day session.
The Senate Public Affairs Committee hearing was held in the Senate chambers to accommodate the audience. In an extraordinary move of caution, the over 200 people who showed up to attend the hearing were screened for weapons upon entering the Senate Gallery.
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE ACTION
On February 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee made a major change to the legislation and narrowed downed who can seek the temporary seizure of firearms. Senate Bill 5 was changed to provide that only law enforcement officers, not family members or coworkers, would be able to file the petition in state court for the court of protection.
Democratic Senator Joseph Cervantes, one of the 3 sponsors, said the new version of the legislation is intended to address criticism leveled by sheriffs and other opponents of the bill. The provision requiring a law enforcement officer to petition the court and not allowing someone else to do it such as a family member was aimed at preventing abuse by an ex-spouse seeking retaliation. A Household member could still request the filing of a petition by law enforcement, but it would be up to a law enforcement officer to determine whether there’s “probable cause” to seek the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order.
Opponents of the bill said that the changes still did not go far don’t go far enough and allow someone a chance to contest an order to surrender their firearms.
The amended proposal narrowly cleared the Senate Judiciary on a 6-5 vote and the amended bill was sent to the Senate for a full vote of the chamber.
FINAL SENATE ACTION
On February 7, the Senate passed the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection bill by just two votes with a vote of 22-20 avoiding a tie vote with some Democrats crossing party lines and voting with Republicans. Democrats hold a 26-16 edge in the Senate. The 4 Democrats who joined all 16 Republicans to vote no were Senator’s Gabriel Ramos of Silver City, John Arthur Smith of Deming, Richard Martinez of Ojo Caliente, and Clemente Sanchez of Grants. Had the vote been a tie Lt. Governor Howie Morales, who presides over the Senate, would have likely voted in favor of passage. The final vote was cast after hours of tense debate.
Senator Cervantes in arguing the passage of the amended bill on the Senate floor, reminded lawmakers of the mass shooting in El Paso last year in which a gunmen targeted people of Mexican decent and killed 22 people and had this to say:
“In too many of these mass killings and in suicides, we have noticed and we have acknowledged too many times of these individuals telling friends, schoolmates, principals, family members, of their intentions to do harm to others and yet despite that knowledge, too often times nothing is done.”
Senate Bill 5 now goes to the House further action. If it passes the House, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham says she will sign it whereupon New Mexico will to become the 18th state with a red-flag gun law. The Governor had this to say about the passage of Senate Bill 5 in the Senate:
“We have an obligation to every single New Mexican, every single family, every single child that we do everything in our power that can provide just that additional layer of safety and public support.”
LAW ENFORCEMENT OPPOSITION
Not at all surprising, and like last year when a Red Flag Law failed, Senate Bill 5 is opposed by many within New Mexico’s law enforcement community. 30 of the state’s 33 county sheriffs oppose the measure. However, State Police Chief Tim Johnson and members of the Albuquerque Police Department upper command support the legislation with APD Deputy Chief Harold Medina testifying during committee hearings in support of it.
Opponents of the bill argue it is unconstitutional, it violates the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms and due process of law, questioning whether it will prevent future tragedies. Governor Lujan Grisham, Senator Cervantes and other supporters expressed confidence in the bill’s constitutionality pointing out it was based on similar laws passed in other states.
SUICICIDES, SCHOOL SHOOTINGS AND MASS MURDERS
Backers of the red flag law say it could prevent school shootings, suicides and mass murder arguments that are immediately credible given New Mexico and the country’s statistics.
NEW MEXICO’S SUICIDE RATE
Most gun deaths in New Mexico are a result of suicide and therefore the state’s suicide rate is a critical part of the debate. Overall, the state suicide rate is 21.9 deaths per 100,000 people, which is more than 50% higher than the national average. Ten counties in New Mexico that are largely rural areas of the state have suicide rates at least twice the national average, which is 14 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. Studies in states that have “red flag laws” and that have “risk-based firearm seizure laws” were associated with reduced suicide rates.
NEW MEXICO’S DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RATE
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 states.
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.
Current statistics are 1 in 3 New Mexico women will experience domestic violence in thier lifetime. 18,000 domestic violence calls were made in 2017 with 8,000 calls made in Albuquerque. 30% of the calls had a child as a witness. Nationwide 3 women are killed daily from domestic violence.
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.
UNITED STATES HISTORY OF MASS SHOOTINGS
Since 1995, the United States has had 95 mass shootings, including seven of the 11 deadliest. Three of the 11 biggest mass shootings in American history have now taken place in the United States during the last two years.
There is no doubt we have a deadly mass shooting epidemic on our hands.
The mass shooting with guns in the last 10 years include: Orlando, Florida (49 killed, 50 injured), Blacksburg, Va. (32 killed), San Ysidro, Cal (21 killed), San Bernardino, (14 killed), Edmond Oklahoma (14 killed), Fort Hood (13 killed), Binghamton, NY (13 killed) Washington, DC (12 killed), Aurora, Colorado (12 killed), Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn (21 children and 6 adult staff members killed), an ex-employee kills five people when he opened fire at the Miller Coors building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and then commits suicide, and the largest mass shooting in this country’s history that occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada with at least 59 dead and at least 515 wounded and the Parkland/Stoneridge High School shooting that resulted in 17 children’s deaths. Since 1995, the United States has had 98 mass shootings, including seven of the 11 deadliest. Three of the 11 biggest mass shootings in American history have now taken place in the United States in the last two years. . There is no doubt we have a deadly mass shooting epidemic on our hands.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is more likely than not that the New Mexico House of Representatives will enact Senate 5 and it should without any reservation because lives could be saved.
NATURAL EXTENSION OF Family Protection Act.
Senate Bill 5 is a natural extension of the 2019 New Mexico Legislature passage of Senate Bill 328 which prohibits gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act. Under the enacted legislation domestic abusers must surrender their firearms to law enforcement. The gun possession prohibition also applies to people convicted of other crimes.
What I learned as the Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney is that Albuquerque’s dirty little secret is that domestic violence is the number-one reason why a woman is admitted to the emergency room of the University of New Mexico Hospital. Statics in Albuquerque showed that after about the 10th or 11th time there is a call out of the Albuquerque Police Department to a home for domestic violence, it is usually to pick a woman up in a body bag. This fact alone makes I very troubling as to why the elected
Sheriff’s oppose red flag law. Further Domestic violence call outs are some of the most dangerous calls for service law enforcement handle.
PROMOTION OF OWN PRO GUN PHILOSOPHY BY LAW ENFORCEMENT
The elected sheriffs who oppose the meaningful gun control legislation that the red flag law represents ignore their duty and responsibilities to serve and protect the general public that elected them preferring to promote their own “pro-gun” political philosophy and their own personal interpretation of the law. New Mexico’s Domestic Violence cases make up a large share of violent crime cases. The public’s safety and enactment of laws for the protection of those that easily become victims of gun violence, even by family members, should be law enforcement’s number one priority, not enforcing only those laws they feel that conform to their own “pro-gun” philosophy. The enactment of laws is the responsibility of the legislature, not law enforcement. The meaning and interpretation of the laws enacted is the responsibility of the court’s, and not of law enforcement.
NEW MEXICO’S GUN CULTURE
The biggest criticisms against “red flag” laws are that they violate a citizen’s United States Constitution Second amendment right to bear arms. Such an argument resonates with the New Mexico gun culture. Another major criticism is that a person’s constitutional right of due process of law is violated when a court can issue a temporary “ex parte” order to seize guns from people without an evidentiary hearing and without any notice.
Given New Mexico’s high suicide rates, domestic violence killings with guns and the threat of mass shootings, it is shameful that elected county sheriffs are far more concerned about “second amendment rights” that allows almost anyone, including those who pose a harm to themselves and others, to have a firearm of their choosing. The elected sheriff’s hide behind the 2nd Amendment so as not to protect or enforce the rights of others who have the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” just as much guaranteed under the constitution as the right to bear arms.
Far more needs to be done by the New Mexico legislature to combat gun violence and to keep the public safe from those who pose a risk to themselves and others. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico State Legislature are wise to do all they can and enact the red flag law, and if one suicide can be prevented and if just one shooting by a mentally ill person can be prevented by it, it is worth it.