March 15, 2019

NM will seize guns in domestic abuse cases

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Gun control advocates can claim a victory after the House of Representatives voted 38-31 shortly before midnight Thursday to approve a bill intended to ensure people subject to a protection order in a domestic abuse case shall not possess a weapon.

The legislation, Senate Bill 328, also requires that person to relinquish his or her firearms to law enforcement authorities.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham plans to sign the bill into law, spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said.

Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque and one of three sponsors of the bill, said after its passage, “I believe it will save lives.

“There’s a much higher likelihood of death by firearm in situations of domestic violence when a gun is available,” she said.

Some Republicans who opposed the bill said that if it is signed into law it will apply to people not yet convicted of domestic abuse. One of the bill’s amendments leaves it to a judge to make the determination if the person in question poses a credible threat.

Critics also questioned whether the bill would jeopardize police officers who have to collect those weapons. For example, a National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund study found that, nationally, 136 officers were killed while responding to domestic disturbances between 1988 and 2016.

Some Republican lawmakers also said law enforcement agencies may have a tough time storing all the weapons they collect. The bill’s fiscal impact report notes that in 2017 there were close to 7,000 domestic violence cases filed, though not all of them resulted in an issue of protective order. As a result, the number of weapons police may have to take charge of could be “significant.”

That report says some police agencies may have to spend money on additional storage space — a point some Republican legislators brought up during Thursday night’s debate.

Note: This story originally had the wrong text. It has been corrected.