Hundreds rallied outside the Capitol building in Santa Fe on Friday afternoon in opposition to a proposal backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to allow police to seize firearms from people deemed to be an “extreme risk” to themselves or others.
The Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act is one of the governor’s top priorities during the 30-day 2020 legislative session. Lujan Grisham and other supporters say it would make it easier to thwart mass shootings and suicides.
It would make New Mexico one of 17 other states and the District of Columbia that have similar measures known as “red-flag” laws.
But Senate Bill 5 is likely to be one of the most contentious bills heard during the short budget session. Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who is co-sponsoring the measure, has argued that the mass shooting last year at an El Paso Walmart is a prime example of why it should be enacted, and other proponents have said it could save women from domestic abusers who may wish to harm them.
But Republicans and the National Rifle Association are staunch opponents. They argue that the measure amounts to an attempt to roll back people’s Second Amendment right to own a firearm. Thirty of 33 New Mexico sheriffs oppose the legislation, and a handful of sheriffs were present at the rally Friday.
Lincoln County Undersheriff Mike Wood, wearing a cowboy hat and an American flag tie, said that while he, the sheriff and the deputies in Lincoln County all take domestic violence seriously, “We just don’t believe that taking firearms is the answer without due process. There’s an absolute potential for abuse.”
Also among the hundreds of demonstrators was Julian Gutierrez — a Raton resident originally from Juarez, Mexico, who became a U.S. citizen in January — who said he sees the red-flag legislation the way many at the rally do: an infringement on his rights.
“I think they’re looking at it the wrong way,” he said. “They’re punishing the law-abiding people that own guns that haven’t done anything because of a few people with mental issues and stuff like that are causing a lot of mass shootings or just regular shootings. And we’re being punished for it.”
Farmington resident Andra Stradling, who came to Santa Fe with a group of enthusiastic pro-Second Amendment women, including one holding a sign that said “SB5 KILLS WOMEN,” said she worries the legislation would endanger other women.
Although the extreme risk legislation could theoretically be used to remove guns from a domestic abuser, Stradling argued that doing so is unwise.
“Without that, he can come back and kill her with whatever if he thinks she’s the one who red-flagged him,” Stradling said. “What does it take to kill somebody? What do you need? Some of these are putting at-risk people who are already under duress with their partner in more serious problems.”
In full camouflage military fatigues and sunglasses, gripping her AR-15 as she surveyed the rally, Amber Goodrich, 56, said she thinks the extreme risk bill is intended to take guns away from good, law-abiding Americans. The longtime Santa Fe resident said she served in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War.
“It’s our right, in fact it’s our duty to own weapons,” Goodrich said. “I mean, they’ve already taken the cannons. They’ve already taken automatic weapons. They’re trying to take everything.
“Who’s to say that someone’s a threat? I’ve lived with guns my whole life. They save lives. Ask any sheriff who’s out here today. Ask them. They’ve saved us countless times again. Hitler took the guns. Stalin took the guns. Mao took the guns. Pol Pot took the guns. And by God, they’re not gonna take them here,” she said.