On Friday, September 8, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared gun violence and illegal drugs a public health emergency with the issuance of a sweeping Emergency Public Health Care Order. On September 28, 2023, the New Mexico Department of Health released its “Comprehensive Report on Gunshot Victims Presenting at Hospitals in New Mexico.” The report spans the time period from 1999 to 2023. The report was issued as a direct response to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s September 8 Executive Order 2023-0130, declaring a public health emergency due to gun violence.
Patrick Allen, Secretary for the Department of Health had this to say about the report:
“The findings of this report are clear: New Mexico faces an urgent firearm-related injury crisis. … The alarming surge in firearm-related injuries and deaths revealed in this report demands our immediate attention. We must work together as a community to implement effective interventions that will save lives and reduce the economic burden on our healthcare system.”
The link to review the full 23 page report with elaborate graphs and pie charts is here:
KEY FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS OF REPORT
The report provides a detailed analysis of firearm-related violent deaths and injuries in New Mexico. It encompasses data from various sources, including New Mexico’s surveillance systems, state behavioral risk factor surveys, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) data.
The key findings and conclusions detailed in the report with supporting graphs and pie charts are as follows:
INCREASE IN FIREARM-RELATED DEATHS
- Over the past two decades, New Mexico’s firearm death rates rose from seventh highest nationwide in 1999 to third highest in 2021 with the age-adjusted firearm death rate increasing by 87% between 2010 and 2021.
- While suicide remains the predominant cause of firearm-related deaths, a notable surge of 70% in the homicide rate is driving the overall increase in firearm fatalities.
DEMOGRAPHIC AND GEOGRAPHIC DISPARITIES
- Men of all age groups were found to be at highest risk for firearm-related injuries and deaths.
- Racial/ethnic inequities: Non-Hispanic American Indian, Non-Hispanic Blacks, and Hispanics, experienced substantial increases in firearm injury death rates between 2017 and 2021.
- The Northeast and Metro Health Regions experienced a substantial increase in firearm injury emergency department (ED) visits over the past two years (Northeast: +30%; Metro: +22%).
INCREASED SEVERITY OF HEALTH OUTCOMES OF FIREARM INJURY
Between 2019 and 2022, there was a 16% increase of patients being admitted to intensive care and a 61% increase in patients being transferred from ED to the operating room
SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE USE CONTRIBUTING TO INCREASED FIREARMS DEATHS
- Between 2019 and 2020, there was an 89% increase in alcohol dependence for homicides. involving firearms. Additionally, from 2018 to 2020, there was a 475% increase non-alcoholic substance dependence for homicides involving a firearm.
- Between 2018 and 2020, there was an 85% increase in alcohol dependence and a 120% increase in non-alcoholic substance abuse for suicides involving a firearm.
LACK OF SAFE STORAGE AS RISK FACTOR FOR FIREARM INJURY AND DEATH
- In 2022, 37% of New Mexican households have a firearm, 15% of New Mexican households have a loaded firearm, and 8% have a loaded and unlocked firearm.
- In 2022, households with a firearm and a child less than 18 years old, 38% have a loaded firearm and 15% have a loaded and unlocked firearm.
RISING ECONOMIC IMPACT OF FIREARM INJURY TO NEW MEXICO HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
- The annual estimated overall cost of firearms injuries and deaths in New Mexico is $6 billion or $2818 per capita.
- Medicaid claims for firearm injuries in New Mexico increased by 85% from $6.5 million in 2018 to $12 million in 2022 (Figure 12).
- Between January 2023 and September 2023, Medicaid expenditures totaling $5.6 million have been spent on firearm injuries in New Mexico.
- Medicaid was the primary payer for 76% of gun injury hospital discharges in 2022 In 2021, the Department of Health with support of the CDC, developed a Statewide Strategic Plan for the Prevention of Firearm Injury (FASTER Report FINAL (unm.edu)) which is an important supplement to this document. Demographic Data on Firearm Injury.
New Mexican residents ages 18-29 and 30-49 have disproportionate risk for firearm injury ED visits (A This trend emphasizes the increased vulnerability of New Mexico’s younger residents. Furthermore, there has been a noticeable surge in firearm related ED visits among children aged 0-17, with particular concern for those aged 14-17
The data reveals an unsettling gender imbalance with firearm incidents. Men account for a staggering 84% of all firearm injury ED visits. This overwhelming majority underscores the importance of gender-specific interventions, especially targeting young males, to address and prevent firearm-related incidents.
RACE & ETHNICITY
- Three groups have age adjusted firearm death rates that are increasing at a higher rate than the state (+91% for Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native, +72% for NonHispanic Blacks, and +78% for Hispanics vs. +47 for all NM residents) between 2017 and 2021.
- In addition, Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics have higher age adjusted firearm death rates (45.2 and 27.8 respectively) compared to all New Mexico residents (27) in 2021.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, race and ethnicity were key predictors of poor health outcomes, with American Indian, Hispanic/Latino and Black New Mexicans experiencing disproportionately high rates of infection, hospitalizations, and death from COVID-19.
- Historical discrimination (including racism) and lack of investments in communities of color including Sovereign Nations, Tribes and Pueblos have contributed to inequity in social factors that impact firearm related incidents such as education, housing, economic development, and opportunity.
- Additionally, research shows that stress and trauma due to racism, including historical trauma, have been shown to lead to poorer health outcomes and decreased life expectancy. This underscores the importance of addressing health equity and upstream risk factors as part of the framework for addressing and preventing firearm-related incidents.
HEALTHCARE OUTCOMES FOR GUNSHOT VICTIMS
Gunshot injuries have wide-ranging and severe implications on individual well-being, often necessitating immediate and extensive medical care. Delving into the healthcare outcomes for gunshot victims reveals a concerning picture.
SEVERITY OF INJURIES
- Between 2019 and 2022, the number of patients in New Mexico’s trauma centers with firearm injuries has increased by 39%.
- The number of trauma center patients with firearm injuries being discharged from the ED to the intensive care unit has increased by 16%
- There has been a concerning 61% increase in gunshot injuries that required surgical interventions
- New Mexico ranked seventh highest in the U.S. in 1999 and 2011. The rank increased to third highest in the U.S. in 2021
- New Mexico has consistently had a larger age adjusted1 firearm death rate than the rest of the country. Moreover, the age adjusted firearm injury death rate for New Mexico has also increased at a higher rate compared to the U.S. For example, New Mexico’s firearm injury death rate was 48% higher than the U.S. in 2010, compared to being 90% higher in 2021.
TYPE OF FIREARM AND AMMUNITION INVOLVED IN FIREARM DEATHS
The next section will examine the type of firearm and ammunition used in firearm fatalities in New Mexico. The following data was pulled from pooled data in the New Mexico National Violent Death Reporting System (NM VDRS) from 2018 to 2020.
TYPE OF FIREARM IN DEATHS
- Handguns were implicated in 77% of violent firearm-related deaths (Figure 6).
- Rifles and shotguns were involved in 7% and 6% of such incidents, respectively.
COMMON FIREARM MANUFACTURERS IN DEATHS
- An unknown manufacturer was noted in 61% of cases of the New Mexico National Violent Death Reporting System (NM VDRS) pooled data from 2018 to 2020.
- Smith & Wesson firearms were linked to 8% of violent deaths, followed by Ruger (6%), Glocks (5%), and Taurus (4%).
AMMUNITION CALIBERS IN VIOLENT DEATHS
- The 9-millimeter (mm) caliber was the most prevalent, associated with 25% of violent firearm deaths. PAGE 7
- Other notable calibers included .38 (10%), .22 (9%), .45 (8%), and .40 (7%)
CONTEXTUAL INSIGHT: THE OAKLAND STUDY
A comprehensive study from Oakland, California, conducted on 4593 firearms recovered between 2017 and 2021, provides crucial insights:
- There was a marked increase in untraceable, privately manufactured firearms during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Firearms recently purchased from licensed dealers also saw a notable surge. Notably, these privately manufactured firearms displayed a higher correlation with violent crimes.
- The findings of this study highlight the urgent need for regulatory measures on privately produced firearms. It also emphasizes the importance of monitoring the sale and diversion of weapons from legitimate trade channels.
- Firearm details, such as brand and caliber, offer a more granular perspective on firearm injury. Moreover, studies from regions like Oakland, California underscore broader trends and challenges.
CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO DEATH
The most common type of death involving a firearm in New Mexico between 2018-2021 was suicide.
The circumstances precipitating firearm-related injuries in New Mexico are intrinsically tied to diverse societal challenges:
Between 2018 and 2020, distinct societal issues emerged as contributing factors and key catalysts for firearm incidents.
For Firearm-Related Suicides, alcohol dependence or issues rose by 85% and substance abuse problems increased by 120%
Trends in Firearm Injury Emergency Department Visits by Location were identified as follows:
- Northeast Health Region saw a 30% increase.
- Metro Health Region experienced a 22% rise.
- Southeast Health Region reported a 32% decline.
- Southwest Health Region was relatively r unchanged with a slight 3% decrease.
- Northwest Health Region remained consistent, showing a minor 1% increase.
IMPACT ON NEW MEXICO’S HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
The repercussions of increasing firearm-related incidents extend far beyond the immediate victims, permeating and placing undue stress on New Mexico’s healthcare system.
- Medicaid has shouldered 76% of the cost of firearm injuries for 76% of gun injury hospital discharges in 2022.
- The Medicaid fiscal expenditures of firearm injuries have seen an alarming escalation from $6.5 million in 2018 to $12 million in 2022, which represents an increase in 85%
- The total expenditure, encompassing medical expenses and value of statistical life, for firearm fatalities in New Mexico amounted to $6 billion.
THE PREVALENCE OF UNSAFE STORAGE OF FIREARMS IN NEW MEXICO
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey data provides additional information on unsafe storage of firearms, which is a key risk factor for firearm injury in households with children (age 18 or under) More specifically, several key findings from the BRFSS include:
- 37% of New Mexican households have a firearm, 15% of New Mexican households have a loaded firearm, and 8% have a loaded and unlocked firearm.
- In households with a firearm, 41% have a loaded firearm, 21% have a loaded and unlocked firearm, and 23% with a loaded and unlocked firearm also have a child less than 18 in the household.
- In households with a firearm and a child less than 18 years old, 38% have a loaded firearm and 15% have a loaded and unlocked firearm. The 2023 New Mexico Risk and Resilience Survey (NM -YRRS) was used to examine youth gun carrying and having a firearm in the household, which are key risk factors for firearm injury among youth.
Key findings include:
- 6% of high school students carried a gun in the past year not for hunting or sport.
- 44% of high school students lived in a home that had a gun.
Links to related news sources are here:
NEW MEXICO CRIME STATISTICS
New Mexico’s firearm ownership and fatality rate is also among the nation’s highest. In 2016 over 37% of adults in the state lived in a household with a firearm which is 5% higher than the national average according to the think tank Rand Corp.
In 2020, New Mexico had the nation’s second-highest violent crime rate.
2021 NEW MEXICO CRIME STATISTICS
New Mexico’s firearm fatality rate is among the nation’s highest. According to the New Mexico Department of Health, there were a total of 562 state residents who died in 2021 due to firearm-related injuries.
This figure is up significantly from the 481 firearm-related deaths in 2020. Of the 562 state residents who died in 2021 due to firearms, 319 cases, were classified as suicides and 243 were classified as homicides.
In 2021 New Mexico law enforcement reported over 28,000 crimes against persons. That includes crimes such as murder, rape, assault, and kidnapping. In 2021, FBI data showed for every 100,000 people in New Mexico, law enforcement reported 2,189 crimes against persons. The only state with a higher rate was Arkansas, which reported 2,276 crimes per 100,000 people.
In 2021 New Mexico law enforcement agencies reported nearly 25,500 instances of assault . That’s 1,872 more than the state reported in 2020. New Mexico law enforcement also reported more homicides in 2021 than the year before.
In 2021 across New Mexico, police reported 193 homicides to the FBI. That’s 67 more than in 2020. Not at all surprising is that the majority of the state’s reported homicides were in Albuquerque.
In 2021, New Mexico law enforcement reported to the FBI 822 kidnappings and abductions to the FBI. That put New Mexico at the top of the list regarding kidnappings and abductions per 100,000 people. Kansas, Colorado, and Utah also rank high on the list of kidnappings and abductions per population.
2022 NEW MEXICO CRIME STATISTICS
“Safe Wise” is a national private company that reviews, rates and promotes private home security systems and products. It conducts national surveys on crime statistics and trends and publishes a newsletter on it findings.
On March 13, 2023, Safe Wise published a “State of Safety Report” for New Mexico. Following are edited noteable excerpts from the report:
“New Mexico continues to have higher-than-average crime rates across the board. … [T]he good news is that both property and violent crime rates are declining year over year. Violent crime fell from 8.2 incidents per 1,000 people to 7.8 but that still gives New Mexico the second-highest violent crime rate in the US, behind Alaska with 8.4 incidents per 1,000.
Property crime fell from 31.8 incidents per 1,000 people to 28.4. New Mexico is one of just a dozen states to see declines in both violent and property crime, but fewer cities reporting crime data to the FBI may also be a factor.”
VIOLENT CRIME IN NEW MEXICO: FEAR VS. REALITY
“New Mexicans have the 8th highest level of concern about violent crime in the nation with 58% of our State of Survey respondents indicating they worry about it on a daily basis. Concern about gun violence is just a tad lower with 57% of the population reporting daily concern.
- 31% of people in New Mexico reported feeling safe in their state compared to 50% of Americans. Only the residents of Illinois and New York feel less safe in their states.
- 15% of New Mexicans reported having a personal experience with violent crime in the 12 months prior to our survey, which matches the national average but represents an increase of 200% year over year for New Mexico.
- 42% of survey participants report using some form of personal protection— above the US average of 39%. Pepper spraywas the most popular personal safety device carried.
- 48% of New Mexicans say their personal safety has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic compared to 44% of Americans.”
ATTITUDES ABOUT GUN VIOLENCE IN NEW MEXICO
- “57% of New Mexico respondents named gun violence as a top safety concern—well above the US average of 47%.
- 16% of residents reported experiencing gun violence in the 12 months prior to the survey, up from 5% in our previous report.
- Mass shooting incidents increased 300% in New Mexico during the 2023 reporting year, rising from 1 to 4.
- Firearms are the third-most common method used for both personal safety and property protection in New Mexico.”
PROPERTY CRIME IN NEW MEXICO: FEAR VS. REALITY
“New Mexicans’ personal experiences with property crime increased year over year to 39%, which is the second-highest percentage in the nation. With that said, 41% of New Mexicans said they increased their security or safety measures in the 12 months prior to the survey, and people in New Mexico were more likely to use all types of property protection compared to the average American.
- Property crime experiences increased by 105% year-over-year in New Mexico.
- 39% of New Mexicans experienced package theft in the 12 months prior to our survey, which is the eighth-highest rate in the nation and represents an increase of 70% year over year.
- 46% of survey respondents said they use security cameras. Guard dogswere the second-most popular option for protecting property in New Mexico (38%).
- Doorbell cameras are the most popular form of package theft protection among New Mexico residents.”
The link to review the full unedited Safe Wise report is here:
ALBUQUERQUE CRIME RATES
Albuquerque is at the forefront of New Mexico’s high violent crime rate. According to legislative data released, the city had about half of the state’s violent crime in 2022 but has just 25% or so of its total population.
The Albuquerque Police Department reported that in November, 2022 gun law violations spiked 85%. The last two years have also been two very violent years for Albuquerque. The number of homicides in the city have broken all-time records. In 2021, there were 117 homicides, with 3 declared self-defense reducing homicide number to 114. In 2022, there were 120 homicides, a historical high.
On Thursday, March 16, 2023 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released the 2022 crime statistics along with crime statistics for 2022 for a comparison. During his March 16 press conference announcing the City’s 2022 crime statistics, APD Chief Harold Medina embellished that a 3% drop in overall total of crime and a 4% decrease in Crimes Against Persons and the 2% decrease in Crimes Against Property was positive movement. The slight 3% decrease in overall crime was over shadowed by the 24% spike in CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY which are largely made up of drug and gun offenses and a 71% increase in murders over the last 6 years.
Chief Medina revealed that over the last 6 years, Albuquerque has had a dramatic 71% spike in homicides. The number of homicides reported over the last 6 years is as follows:
- 2017: 70 homicides
- 2018: 69 homicides
- 2019: 80 homicides
- 2020: 78 homicides
- 2021: 110 homicides
- 2022: 120 homicides
On March 16, in addition to reporting that there has been a 71% spike in homicides, APD officials reported that over the past 6 years there has been a 28% increase in Aggravated Assaults which by definition includes the use of a firearms. Following are the Aggravated Assaults numbers:
- 2017: 4,213
- 2018: 5,156
- 2019: 5,337
- 2020: 5,592
- 2021: 5,669
- 2022: 5,399
Crime rates in Albuquerque are high across the board. According to the Albuquerque Police’s annual report on crime, there were 46,391 property crimes and 15,765 violent crimes recorded in 2021. These numbers place Albuquerque among America’s most dangerous cities.
ALBUQUERQUE IS RANKED 17TH AMONG 70 OF THE LARGEST CITIES
On April 26, the Major Cities Chiefs Association released its Violent Crime Survey and national totals for the crimes of homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults. According to the report, Albuquerque is ranked 17th among 70 of the largest cities in the nation looking at trends in the 4 categories. The single most troubling statistic is Albuquerque’s increase in homicides.
The Major Cities Chiefs Association report shows in 2022, there was a 5% drop in homicides nationwide. According to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Albuquerque had one of the worst homicide rates in the nation and is one of 27 cities across the nation that saw an increase in homicides.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The “Comprehensive Report on Gunshot Victims Presenting at Hospitals in New Mexico” without any doubt is sobering and depressing on a number of levels and underscores the extent of the crisis the state is dealing with when it comes to gun violence. The crime statistics reflect that the state is facing and epidemic in gun violence. The report and the statistics combined is a scathing indictment of the New Mexico Legislature’s failure to address New Mexico’s Gun violence epidemic.
If Governor Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico legislature are serious about the State’s crime crisis and want to do something about it, the Governor should call for and the New Mexico Legislature should enact an “Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act.” The message that must be sent out loud and clear to violent criminals by our elected officials is that New Mexico has a zero tolerance of violent crimes committed with firearms. The only way to do that is with responsible gun control measures to reduce the availability of guns and to enhance criminal sentencings.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT MEASURES
The following crime and sentencing provisions should be included in the “Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act”:
- Allow firearm offenses used in a drug crime to be charged separately with enhance sentences.
- Making possession of a handgun by someone who commits a crime of drug trafficking an aggravated third-degree felony mandating a 10-year minimum sentence.
- Increase the firearm enhancement penalties provided for the brandishing a firearm in the commission of a felony from 3 years to 10 years for a first offense and for a second or subsequent felony in which a firearm is brandished 12 years.
- Create a new category of enhanced sentencing for use of a lethal weapon or deadly weapon other than a firearm where there is blandishment of a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony with enhanced sentences of 5 years for a first offense and for second or subsequent felony in which a lethal weapon other than a firearm is brandished 8 years
- Increase the penalty of shooting randomly into a crowded area a second-degree felony mandating a 9-year sentence.
- Increase the penalty and mandatory sentencing for the conviction of the use of a fire arm during a road rage incident to a first degree felony mandating a life sentence.
- Change bail bond to statutorily empower judges with far more discretionary authority to hold and jail those pending trial who have prior violent crime reported incidents without shifting the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense.
GUN CONTROL MEASURES
Gun control measures that should be included the “Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act” would include legislation that failed in the 2023 legislative session and other measures and would include the following:
- Call for the repeal the New Mexico Constitutional provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms. This would require a public vote and no doubt generate heated discussion given New Mexico’s high percentage of gun ownership for hunting, sport or hobby, but what is the real rational for allowing side arms and rifles to be carried down the street other than to intimidate others.
- Restrict the sale, manufacture and possession of AR-15-style rifles along with semiautomatic firearms and make it a fourth-degree felony to purchase, possess, manufacture, import, sell or transfer assault weapons in the state.
- Prohibited magazines with more than 10 rounds.
- Prohibited the possession of semiautomatic firearm converter that allows the weapon to fire more rapidly.
- Established a 14-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm and requires a prospective seller who doesn’t already hold a valid federal firearms license to arrange for someone who does to conduct a federal background check prior to selling a firearm.
- Institute a Federal and State background check system with a mental health component that would disqualify a person with a history of mental health violent outbursts or a history of threats to others from making a gun purchase.
- Established a minimum age of 21 for anyone seeking to purchase or possess an automatic firearm, semiautomatic firearm or firearm capable of accepting a large-capacity magazine.
- Ban the manufacture, sale, trade, gift, transfer or acquisition of semiautomatic pistols that have two or more defined characteristics.
- Revised the state’s Unfair Practices Act to target the sale of illegal firearms and parts, allowing the filing of lawsuits to enforce the act.
- Prohibit in New Mexico the sale of “ghost guns” parts. Ghost guns are guns that are manufactured and sold in parts without any serial numbers to be assembled by the purchaser and that can be sold to anyone.
- Require in New Mexico the mandatory purchase of “liability insurance” with each gun sold as is required for all operable vehicles bought and driven in New Mexico.
- Mandate the school systems and higher education institutions “harden” their facilities with more security doors, security windows, and security measures and alarm systems and security cameras tied directly to law enforcement 911 emergency operations centers.
- Require a permit to purchase all rifles and handguns. There are 15 other states require a permit to purchase or licensing. The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Firearm licensing has past performance. A John Hopkins University study in a comparative analysis, describes licensing as the most effective firearm policy. Connecticut notes a 28% decrease in homicides, 33% decrease in suicides 10 years post licensing. When you compare states with and without licensing, there is a 56% decrease in mass shootings. Studies reveal a decrease of gun trafficking of more than 60% after licensing. Missouri found similar increases in homicides and suicides when removing their purchase restrictions. Licensing is constitutional it has broad public support. Licensing brings in revenue to the state vs simply cost the state money.
The Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act Omnibus Gun Violence And Sentencing Act must include funding for the criminal justice system. This would include funding District Attorney’s Offices, the Public Defender’s Office, the Courts and the Corrections Department and law enforcement departments across New Mexico.
Until the Governor and the New Mexico legislature get serious about New Mexico’s gun violence crisis and enacts reasonable gun control measures in conjunction with crime and punishment measures, we can expect our violent crime rates to continue to increase, and God forbid, yet another killing of a child which is what prompted the Governor to issue her executive orders in the first place.