Governor MLG Considers Calling Special Session To Deal With Public Safety Issues; It’s About Time!

The 2024 New Mexico legislative session ended on February 15 at noon.  During a news conference immediately after the session ended Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she may convene a “special public safety session” to try and pass more public safety initiatives that did not make it through the legislature.

A link to the press conference is here:

During the press conference, the Governor highlighted gun-related bills that made it to her desk for signature. The bills she highlighted included House Bill 129 that  creates a seven-day waiting period, often referred to as a “cooling-off” period, for gun purchases.  Lawmakers also passed a bill increasing penalties for second-degree murder. Other crime bills that passed included banning guns from polling places and automatically holding people who commit crimes while out of jail awaiting trial for another crime.

While the governor highlighted these bills saying they will make a difference in saving lives, she also expressed her frustration that more public safety bills did not make it to her desk. The Governor said the House and Senate failed to make more progress on her public safety  priorities for the 30-day session that ended at noon February 15.

Lujan Grisham said this: Both houses are well aware that I’m frustrated that not enough, or certainly more public safety measures got up.  …   I want to just say to New Mexicans, I don’t think it’s safe out there and I don’t think they think it’s safe out there because it plays out horrifically every single day.”

On Tuesday,  February 27, the Governor told  business leaders in Albuquerque she has not made up her mind on a special session and said this:

“You’ll know when I know. I don’t know. … I think there’s a lot more to do.”


Lujan Grisham said it’s too early to commit to specific bills she’d want to bring up in a special session.  However, one of the measures that could be on the table for a potential special session is a move to require behavioral health treatment for people accused of crimes.

The Governor said she had hoped her criminal competency legislation that would address treatment would pass the 2024 Legislature. The criminal competency bill introduced in the 2024 session would have mandated court-ordered treatment for a defendant deemed dangerous and incompetent to stand trial. The bill never made it to the floor. Lujan Grisham said this:

“We need a tool for folks who are repeat offenders because of these issues — substance abuse, behavioral health, mental health issues — to make sure that they can get the required treatment for more than a minute.”


Another bill the Governor  suggested that should be considered during a special session would be to change the pretrial detention system. The bill was tabled in the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee on its first hearing for the third year in a row. The legislation, which Lujan Grisham aggressively pushed,  would have allowed for prosecutors to recommend that defendants accused of certain violent crimes be held in jail before trial without bond.

The statute presumes that people charged with such crimes are too dangerous to be released.  The defense would have a chance to “rebut” and prove that the defendant should be released. If a rebuttal isn’t brought, the defendant would automatically be jailed before trial.

The pretrial detention measure, SB271, was later resurrected via a “dummy bill” which is a blank measure filled in later after introduction and can be on any subject matter. However, it differed significantly from the bill that failed previously. People released after being accused of a felony, if accused of another felony, would be held without bond. No reference to rebuttable presumption was included in the bill.

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, who carried the first bill for the governor said the measure was a different way to achieve the same goal.  Brandt said this:

“Keeping the worst of the worst behind bars. … I think [what passed is] a partial step in the right direction.”

Lujan Grisham said the “no-bond” hold that did pass risks leaning in both directions. The Governor said this:

“This no-bond hold isn’t the provision I was trying to mirror the feds, and I still believe in that. …  I think that …  is just simpler to do.”


The governor also said legislation that would make it a third-degree felony for a felon to be found with a firearm would have passed the Roundhouse if it didn’t contain a mistake, though she didn’t specify what the mistake was.

Lujan Grisham also mentioned legislation during the news conference that would require people to be at least 21 years old to buy guns. It sat on the House calendar, and the floor never actually heard it. Like the other measures, it’s not clear if it would come up again in a special session dedicated to public safety.

Other gun control measures that failed to pass include an assault weapons ban, changes to the Extreme Risk Protection Order and a bill intended to keep the firearm industry accountable.

Lujan Grisham said the most important gun safety bill that made it to her desk was the  waiting period on firearm purchases. Another bill, to keep guns out of polling places, also passed both chambers, with an amendment to exempt people with concealed carry licenses.

House Minority Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, criticized all the gun legislation the Roundhouse passed, saying Democrats failed to meaningfully address crime in New Mexico. Lane said this:

“Guns are not the issue. … Our issues in New Mexico are more foundational.”

Lujan Grisham didn’t say when a special session might occur. If New Mexicans have other ideas on public safety measures, she said, she’s interested in hearing them.


On January 12, 2024 before the beginning of the 2024 Legislative Session, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her support of bills she wanted lawmakers to consider during the 30 day session to address public safety. The bills include raising the age to purchase a gun, regulating assault weapons, and increasing penalties for a range of crimes.  The governor also asked lawmakers to discuss a handful of crime-related bills backed by both Democratic lawmakers as well as Republicans.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had this to say when she unveiled her public safety agenda for the 2024 legislative session:

“We have a gun problem … and we have a public safety problem.  … We have a responsibility to our children, to families, communities to solve it, and I believe this package goes a long way to do just that. … This is, without a doubt, the largest and most comprehensive public safety package in our state’s history. It’s the most together we’ve been on addressing public safety, crime and gun violence since I’ve been involved in government and certainly since I’ve been the governor. … Gun violence is a significant contributor to the cycles of crime in our communities and will continue to use every tool at our disposal to end this epidemic. Likewise, we will strengthen our support for law enforcement, increase penalties for violent crimes, and once again pursue legislation to keep violent offenders behind bars pending trial. All of this will build upon the progress and investments we’ve made in previous years.”

Three of the gun control initiatives Lujan Grisham supported  for the 2024 session in fact failed in the  2023 Legislative session.  The bills from the 2023 legislative session that failed were:

House Bill 101, which would have prohibited people from possessing assault weapons.

House Bill 100, which would have established a 14-day waiting period for guns.

Senate Bill 116, which would have made it illegal for anyone younger than 21 to purchase an automatic or semi-automatic firearm.

All 3 died in committee.


Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for a third time advocated for major changes to the state’s criminal justice pretrial detention system in the form of enacting “rebuttable presumption” to make it easier to hold defendants accused of violent crimes until trial.

For the 2024 session, the bill’s sponsor was Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Sandoval. It would shift the way courts decide if someone should be held in jail before their trial.  The bill would have created a “rebuttable presumption” that a person charged with a violent crime  are a threat and should be held before trial, unless the defense offered clear and convincing evidence that the accused defendant was not  a danger to the community.

The legislation would create a “rebuttable presumption” of dangerousness for defendants charged with violent crimes and that they be held without bond pending trial. The aim of rebuttable presumption” is to make it easier for more defendants to be held in custody before they’ve been convicted and to keep them from committing new crimes.

Proponents of rebuttable presumption say it will reduce violent crime.  Opponents of rebuttable presumption say courts can already keep a defendant behind bars. Opponents argue that reputable presumption shifts the burden of proof to defendants and violates the basic constitutional right of presumption of innocence until proven guilty.


The governor’s public safety priorities included the following bills introduced with the sponsors identified that dealt with firearms and cracking down on crime:

  1. The Firearm Industry Accountability Act amended the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act to allow gun manufacturers to be held liable for deceptive trade practices. (Sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler)
  2. Assault weapons ban would have lawfully regulated the manufacture, possession and sale of weapons of war, most often the gun used in mass casualty events. (Sponsored by Rep. Andrea Romero)
  3. Raising the age to purchase automatic firearms to 21 from the current minimum of 18 years of age. (Sponsored by Rep. Reena Szczepanski)
  4. Prohibiting guns in parks and playgrounds would have  made it illegal to carry a firearm in county or municipal parks, playgrounds, and their accompanying parking lots.
  5. Felons in possession of firearms would have increased the criminal penalty for felons found to be in possession of guns making it a second-degree felony. (Sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil)
  6. Amending the human trafficking statute would have increased the statute of limitations, criminal penalties, and victim protections under New Mexico’s current human trafficking statute. (Sponsored by Rep. Marian Matthews)
  7. Changes to commercial burglary statute would have strengthened law enforcement’s ability to respond to businesses who have revoked a person’s right to enter or remain on their property due to a prior theft. It would have allowed police to charge offenders with the crime of commercial burglary, a 4th-degree felony.
  8. Pretrial detention and rebuttable presumption legislation for persons charged with serious, largely violent offenses. Unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, a defendant that poses a threat to the safety of community members can be held in custody pending trial. (Sponsored by Sen. Craig Brandt)
  9. Mandated treatment that would give judges a more robust avenue to civilly commit individuals who are a danger to themselves or others.
  10. RICO amendments were offered to update the existing Racketeering Act by adding additional crimes to include human trafficking, rape, exploitation of children, escape from penitentiary, and tampering with public records.
  11. Amendments were offered to amend the Extreme Risk Firearms Protection Order Act. Specifically, it would have provided an expedited process where orders are issued 24-7 via an on-call judge, a requirement of immediate relinquishment of firearms upon service of an order. This legislation also would have changed reporting parties to include law enforcement and health care professionals. (Sponsored by Reps. Christine Chandler, Joy Garratt)
  12. A Panhandling ban would have prohibited the unlawful use of public spaces, streets, sidewalks, curbs, with the primary goal of increasing public safety and vehicular efficiency.
  13. Misdemeanor DWI search warrant requirement amendment would have updated the requirements for testing the blood of a suspected intoxicated driver to include both drugs and alcohol for misdemeanor crimes when the arrested person refuses testing.
  14. Hazing penalties would have  criminalized hazing and aggravated hazing, protecting students or prospective students in New Mexico. Hazing is a misdemeanor and aggravated hazing a fourth-degree felony. This bill provides for criminal penalties for teachers, coaches or other reporting parties who knew, or should have known about hazing and failed to report it.
  15. Data sharing requirements for law enforcement agencies would have  required the regular reporting of crime data from law enforcement agencies to the state as a condition of state funding.


The following legislation passed:

  1. Firearms purchase waiting period created a protracted waiting period of 14 days between the initiation of a federal background check and a buyer taking possession of a firearm, thereby reducing the opportunity for gun violence and suicide. (Sponsored by Rep. Andrea Romero) The legislature amended the bill and enacted a 7 day waiting period.
  2. Prohibiting guns in polling places makes it illegal to carry firearms within 100 feet of polling places during an election. (Sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth.) This bill in fact became law.
  3. Compensation was increased for State Police, corrections/parole officers and provides for a 14% funding increase ($11.5 million) for State Police and an 8% increase ($7.2 million) for corrections, probation & parole officers.
  4. Return to work for public safety personnel passed.  The bill is designed to provide a mechanism to allow for public safety personnel who previously retired from PERA to be able to return to work and continue to serve their communities. The goal of the bill is to be able to shore up significant public safety personnel vacancy rates in state, county and municipal public safety agencies.
  5. Increased criminal penalty of the crime of second-degree murder raising  the maximum penalty from 15 to 18 years. (Sponsored by Sen. Antonio Maestas)


It should come as absolutely no surprise to politcal observers that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is now proposing a special session to deal with public safety. A special session is something that was called for repeatedly, especially after the Farmington mass shooting and school shootings at Albuquerque schools and involving children with calls for a Special Session simply ignored by the Governor.

Simply put, when it comes to gun all the gun control legislation Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wanted to be enacted during the 30-day 2024 legislative session, much of it was is dead on arrival and very little even made it through House and Senate committees.   It was way too much for a 30 day session that was supposed to deal with budgetary and financial matters.  In fact only 2  major  gun control measures were actually enacted:

  1. The 7 day cooling off period for the purchase of guns.
  2. No guns at voter polling locations.

Until 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 banning guns in the first place.

If Governor Lujan Grisham is really serious about the State’s crime crisis and wants to do something about it, she should be calling for the New Mexico Legislature to enact an “Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act”  during a Special Session of the legislature.  

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.


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 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.
  • Institute a 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.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.