March 11, 2021

Bill expanding New Mexico’s ‘red-flag’ gun law fizzles

A gun show in Houston, TX. Wikicommons.

A controversial bill to expand New Mexico’s so-called red-flag gun law appears to be a victim of more pressing priorities in this year’s 60-day legislative session.

“For all intents and purposes, it’s gone, unless something really radical changes,” one of the sponsors, Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, said Wednesday. “But there are just too many other priorities this time.”

Ely said he hopes to bring the measure back during the Legislature’s 30-day legislative session next year.

“It’s a calendar management problem,” he said of the bill’s likely demise this year.

House Bill 193 sought to amend New Mexico’s Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act by adding law enforcement officers to the list of people who could seek a court order to temporarily take firearms from a person considered a threat, among other changes.

Under current law, police officers can only seek a court order if it is requested by a family member, a school official, an employer or someone who has had a “continuing personal relationship” with a person considered a threat to themselves or others. The change would allow an officer to seek a court order based on his or her own observations, “absent receipt of credible information from a reporting party.”

The other sponsor, Rep. Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque, said she, too, looked forward to reintroducing the measure next year.

“We’ve gotten feedback from the courts and law enforcement that it needs those tweaks, which is why we’re doing them,” she said.

Garratt said concerns about the bill were blown out of proportion.

“It’s not something that’s going to be used hundreds and hundreds of times as some of the opponents suggested,” she said. “When there’s really an imminent risk of somebody harming themselves or harming others with a firearm, that’s what it’s for.”

Ely said “there is no question” the law “needs fixing.”

“In an ordinary session, it probably would be [a priority bill],” he said. “But this is one where we’re trying to dig out of this economy as quickly as possible and get New Mexico on a really productive track, and I think we’re doing it.”

Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, said she was “extremely disappointed” the bill wasn’t considered on the floor of each chamber.

“This was a crucial amendment that would directly save lives,” she said. “I already know of one suicide that happened because law enforcement couldn’t step in, could not petition [a court].”

Viscoli called the changes “simple amendments” designed to keep New Mexico communities safer from gun violence.

Gun control measures, however, typically generate stiff opposition and hours-long committee and floor debates.

Ely said no one should question his commitment to the red-flag gun law or other gun control legislation.

“I have no problems fighting for it,” he said, adding the priority this year is “fighting for getting New Mexico back to prosperity as quickly as possible.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.