Gov. MLG Signs 4 Public Safety Measures; Special Session Still Under Consideration; Convene Special Session To Enact “Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act” And Expand Existing Mental Health Court Statewide

On Monday afternoon March 4, before a large audience at West Mesa High School and with great fanfare, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law four major pieces of public safety legislation enacted by the 2024 New Mexico legislature. The Governor signed into law bills she personally advocated and made a part of her agenda during the 30 legislative session that ended February 15.  like a seven-day waiting period on firearm purchases and a pretrial detention bill.

Lujan Grisham signed two gun control bills and two bills focused on the judicial system. The bills the Governor signed into law are:

This law establishes a statewide 7-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms, double the current waiting period required by the federal government. The law includes exemptions for concealed carry permit holders, Federal Firearms Licensees, and transactions between law enforcement officers, law enforcement agencies, and immediate family members. Proponents say the law closes a loophole allowing guns to be sold before a buyer’s federal background check has been returned. Bill sponsor Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe had this to say about the waiting period:

“That means a lot to those who have been affected by those who committed suicide.”

The bill was sponsored by Representative Andrea Romero, Dayan Hochman-Vigil and Cristina Parajon, and Senators. Linda M. Lopez and Joseph Cervantes.

This law prohibits carrying firearms within 100 feet of polling places and ballot receptacles, preventing intimidation and violence as New Mexicans exercise their right to vote. Exemptions are granted to law enforcement personnel, and concealed carry permit holders.  Senator Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, one of the bill’s sponsors, called the bill a “very important step as we head into this election cycle. … Guns and voting just don’t mix.” The bill was sponsored by Senators Peter Wirth, Reena Szczepanski, Brenda McKenna, and Joseph Cervantes.

This law strengthens penalties for second-degree murder-related offenses, which make up the vast majority of homicide cases in our state. New Mexico currently has the lowest penalties for second-degree of neighboring states of Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. The maximum sentence for second-degree murder has increased from 15 years to 18 years. The sentence for the crime of attempted second-degree murder has increased from three years to nine years. The bill was sponsored by Senator . Antonio Maestas and Representative Cynthia Borrego.

Bill  sponsor Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said this:

“Murder does not just affect the decedent, but it affects the family for three generations  … There’s a fine line between first- and second-degree murder – now, in our criminal code in New Mexico, first-degree murder and second-degree murder are the two worst penalties.”

This law mandates judges to hold certain violent defendants without bond if a court determines that they  are alleged to have committed another felony offense while out on bond for a previous violent offense. The bill was sponsored by Senator . Daniel A. Ivey-Soto and Senatore Joseph Cervantes.

Governor Lujan Grisham had this to say about Senate Bill 271  she signed into law:

“This legislation strikes at the heart of issues that are keeping New Mexicans up at night. … We are losing far too many lives when guns get into the wrong hands and violent criminals are allowed to recommit again and again. This legislation addresses both.” 

When asked about a 2021 University of New Mexico report that found 95% of defendants in Bernalillo County released before trial did not pick up additional violent crime charges, Lujan Grisham had this to say:

“I don’t want to be one of those 5% where … my business has been robbed, my car has been stolen. … We have to end the cycle.”


The Governor revealed that she has not  yet made up her mind about calling legislators back for a special session focused on reducing crime. The Governor disclosed she has been speaking with leadership at the Roundhouse about convening a Special Session but cautioned that calling a session for the wrong reasons could have consequences. Lujan Grisham said this:

“You likely get nothing in return. … That’s not fair to New Mexicans.”


One measure Lujan Grisham said she would pursue during a special session should she call one  would be a “civil competency” bill.  The bill would require someone to seek behavioral health treatment, regardless of whether a crime was committed.  Lujan Grisham said the state already has “mandatory outpatient treatment,” but said it currently only applies to a narrow set of circumstances. Lujan Grisham said this:

“There are individuals you see go through the ERs who we think are dangerous to themselves and others. … A bill like that, I think, needs to be expanded with new definitions.”

The Governor said she believes the state’s behavioral health care system would be able to handle the changes.

The links to quoted news sources are here:


It was on January 26 that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the introduction of Senate Bill 16 that was aimed at addressing concerns about a defendant’s competency, establishing competency restoration programs, and ensuring the provision of state-funded mental health examinations. The bill failed to be enacted. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Gerald Ortiz y Piño.

At the time the bill was introduced, Gov. Lujan Grisham said this:

“This bill reflects our commitment to a justice system that is fair, compassionate, and responsive to the mental health needs of individuals involved in the legal process.  …  I urge the Legislature to support this important measure for the well-being of our communities.”

Sen. Ortiz y Piño said this:

“This measure gives our judges an additional option to get people the immediate help they need and is a proven mechanism for stopping the cycle of repeat offenses. We should be able to provide compassionate care and keep our streets safer at the same time, and this bill will do just that”


The 4 key provisions of Sente Bill 16 included the following: 

  1. A judge, prosecutor, or defense attorney would be given the ability to refer a defendant for a mental health evaluation.
  2. Individuals that are found competent to stand trial will proceed through the normal channels of the criminal justice system.  Individuals that are found incompetent to stand trial will be provided the least-restrictive means to receive mental health treatment. Such treatment would have also included drug and/or alcohol treatment.
  3. After completion of the competency restoration program charges would be a dismissed for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.
  4. The courts would conduct a hearing in conjunction with the defendant’s mental health providers to determine whether the defendant is a danger to himself, others, or the community. When such a finding of dangerousness is made, a defendant may be admitted to in-patient, residential treatment until such time as he is restored to competence, but in no event for longer than 18 months.

Senate Bill 16 would have ensured that the state bears the cost of mental examinations for defendants, recognizing the importance of providing equitable access to mental health evaluations.


It should come as absolutely no surprise that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is still considering a special session to deal with public safety. It was on January 12, 2024, that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her public safety agenda and her support of 21 bills she wanted lawmakers to consider during the 2024 legislative session to address public safety. The bills included raising the age to purchase a gun, regulating assault weapons, and increasing penalties for a range of crimes.


The governor’s public safety priorities for the 2024 legislative season included the following 21 bills dealing with firearms and cracking down on crime with the sponsors identified:

  • The Firearm Industry Accountability Act amends the state statue to allow gun manufacturers to be held liable for deceptive trade practices. (Sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler)
  • Assault weapons ban lawfully regulates the manufacture, possession and sale of weapons of war, most often the gun used in mass casualty events. (Sponsored by Rep. Andrea Romero)
  • Raising the age to purchase automatic firearms to 21 from the current minimum of 18 years of age. (Sponsored by Rep. Reena Szczepanski)
  • Firearms purchase waiting period creates 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)
  • 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)
  • Prohibiting guns in parks and playgrounds will make it illegal to carry a firearm in county or municipal parks, playgrounds, and their accompanying parking lots.
  • Increased criminal penalty of the crime of second-degree murder raises the maximum penalty from 15 to 18 years. (Sponsored by Sen. Antonio Maestas)
  • Felons in possession of firearms increases the criminal penalty for felons found to be in possession of guns making it a second-degree felony. (Sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil)
  • Amending the human trafficking statute increases the statute of limitations, criminal penalties, and victim protections under New Mexico’s current human trafficking statute. (Sponsored by Rep. Marian Matthews)
  • Changes to commercial burglary statute will strengthen 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 will allow police to charge offenders with the crime of commercial burglary, a 4th-degree felony.
  • Pretrial detention is legislation designed to create a rebuttable presumption 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)
  • Mandated treatment will give judges a more robust avenue to civilly commit individuals who are a danger to themselves or society.
  • RICO amendments will 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.
  • ERPO amendments are designed to amend the Extreme Risk Firearms Protection Order Act. Specifically, it will provide 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 changes reporting parties to include law enforcement and health care professionals. (Sponsored by Reps. Christine Chandler, Joy Garratt)
  • Return to work for public safety personnel 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.
  • Panhandling ban will prohibit the unlawful use of public spaces, streets, sidewalks, curbs, with the primary goal of increasing public safety and vehicular efficiency.
  • Misdemeanor DWI search warrant requirement amendment will update 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.
  • Hazing penalties will criminalize 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.
  • Data sharing requirements for law enforcement agencies will require the regular reporting of crime data from law enforcement agencies to the state as a condition of state funding.
  • Firefighter, law enforcement, corrections officer recruitment fund is designed to provide financial support to recruit candidates to these critical public safety fields.
  • Compensation increases for State Police, corrections/parole officers provides for a 14% funding increase ($11.5 million) for State Police and an 8% increase ($7.2 million) for corrections, probation & parole officers.

On February 15, Governor Lujan Grisham  held a press conference immediately after the 30-day session that ended and she expressed frustration over the legislature’s failure in passing public safety measures. 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.”

Simply put, when it comes to all the public safety measure and 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. It’s surprising that the 4 bills she signed into law even made it through the session.


If Governor Lujan Grisham is really serious about the State’s crime crisis and wants to do something about it, she should call a special session and ask the New Mexico Legislature to  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.

The convening of a special session of NM Legislator for public safety should also include civil mental competency measures. This would include expanding the state’s existing Mental Health Court with the creation of a new 14th Judicial District Court with 3 Regional Divisions for Mental Health Commitment Hearings and the  building of  regional treatment facilities and hospitals for mandatory treatment orders. The postscript to this article contains a link to a blog article on the subject.


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.
  • 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 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 and declaring gun violence a public health crisis.


Convening Special Session Of NM Legislator For Public Safety Must Include Expanding Existing Mental Health Court; Create New 14th Judicial District Court With 3 Regional Divisions For Mental Health Commitment Hearings; Build Regional Treatment Facilities And Hospitals For Mandatory Treatment Ordered

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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.