March 7, 2023

Bill targeting private paramilitaries passes first committee

The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would make creating a private paramilitary organization a crime..

HB 14, sponsored by Rep. Raymundo Lara, D-Chamberino, seeks to create a crime out of establishing one’s own private paramilitary organization and that organization’s actions would also be deemed a crime.

Expert witness Mark Baker, an Albuquerque attorney who has worked on paramilitary cases in Sunland Park and Albuquerque, explained the bill substitute.

“The substitute for the committee substitute for House Bill 14 has a couple of changes,” Baker said.

One change was to change the definition of “dangerous weapon” to “deadly weapon,” which is already included in law. 

The substitute also made the punishment for violating the law uniform instead of multiple different options.

“We looked at the Anti-Terrorism Act, which has provisions that prohibit training for and doing some of the things that this bill actually prohibits engaging in rather than just training for teaching and that the Anti-Terrorism Act is a fourth degree felony, since that’s the basically the talking about it and showing how to do it… It seemed appropriate that it would be one level up from that. 

Another change would not exempt someone who is a member of the military but participates in a paramilitary group. 

The bill seeks to prohibit anyone in a “paramilitary organization or on behalf of or in furtherance of any objectives of a paramilitary organization,” while “armed with a firearm, explosive device, or other deadly weapon,” from knowingly doing certain acts including “publicly patrol, drill or engage in techniques” capable of causing injury or death; interfering or interrupting government operations or a government proceeding;  “exercise or attempt to exercise, without due authority, the function of a peace officer” or pretend to be a peace officer with the intent to deceive; “interfere with or intimidate another person,” depriving them of “right, privilege, or immunity” provided by law and to train or engage” in any of the listed activities, the bill states.

The bill would not apply to  “the armed forces of the United States, national guard, regularly organized state militia, or any unorganized or reserve militia called into service by this state or the United States” or those participating in historical reenactments among other groups.