Opponents of a gun control bill that would expand a controversial new law in New Mexico argue the measure would give police too much power — enough to seize their firearms even if they have committed no crime.
About 15 people testified Thursday against House Bill 193, which would 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. 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 new legislation would allow an officer to seek a court order based on his or her own observations. The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee allowed public testimony on the proposal but postponed a vote on whether to endorse it until the panel’s next hearing, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Few issues stir emotions as much as gun control.
Gun legislation is a surefire way to rile people on both sides of the aisle. Get ready for a spirited debate, New Mexico, because the first two measures pertaining to firearms in this year’s 60-day legislative session will be considered Tuesday by the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.
“Look, in all of these gun bills, there’s always going to be objections that they go too far,” Rep. Daymon Ely, a Corrales Democrat who is sponsoring one of the measures, said Monday. “When you step back from it, gun owners should be in favor of what I’m doing,” he added. “Nobody should want a gun in the hands of someone who is an imminent threat to themselves or others.” But Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, said Democrats tend to craft gun bills that “literally miss the mark.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the extreme risk protection order, or ‘red flag,’ bill into law Tuesday, continuing the shift of gun laws since she was elected. New Mexico is now the 18th state, plus Washington D.C., with such a law on the books. The bill was one of the governor’s legislative priorities for this session and one of the most controversial pieces of legislation. No Republicans in either chamber supported the legislation, and it passed the House by nine votes before narrowly clearing the Senate by just two votes. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to petition a court for temporary removal of firearms from those who they believe are at risk of harming themselves or others.
“New Mexico has balanced individual rights and public safety in a responsible way that will reduce our unacceptable suicide rate and other forms of gun violence,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement after signing the bill into law.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday she will not abide lack of enforcement by any sheriff or other local government official who opposes a new law intended to reduce gun violence. Her comments came during a press conference at which she defended her support of Senate Bill 5, which cleared the Legislature on Thursday and which she intends to sign into law, adding New Mexico to the list of states that have passed what are called “red flag” laws. The measure will allow authorities to petition courts to temporarily remove firearms from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others. “If just one life is saved, if one potential [dangerous] situation is averted, then we’re doing our job,” she told reporters. Her comments came after news that Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton told people at a Eunice City Hall meeting Monday he would rather go to jail than enforce the law, which he thinks is unconstitutional.
The New Mexico Senate approved high-profile gun legislation in a narrow vote Friday, likely clearing the way for the bill to become law. The chamber voted 22-20 to pass an amended version of Senate Bill 5, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act. Under the legislation, law enforcement officers would be able to petition for a court order to take away a person’s firearms for 10 days — an order that could be extended to one year — if they are found to pose a threat to themselves or others. The measure now moves to the House, where it is expected to pass and make New Mexico the 18th state in the nation, plus the District of Columbia, to have a similar so called red flag law on the books. A comparable bill passed the House in last year’s session but didn’t make it to the Senate floor.
So-called “red flag” legislation narrowly cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday by a vote of 6-5. Senate Bill 5, also known as the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, now moves to the Senate floor for consideration. It would allow law enforcement officers to petition for a court order to take away a person’s firearms. A judge would require the person to give up their guns for 10 days — an order that could be extended to one year — if probable cause is found that the person poses a threat to themselves or others. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, is one of the most contentious of this year’s legislative session. But it is one of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s key crime-fighting initiatives, and gun-safety proponents say it will save lives and reduce gun violence.
Earlier this month, Seattle police confiscated a cache of firearms from alleged neo-Nazi leader Kaleb James Cole after a county court named him in an Extreme Risk Protection Order. Police argued Cole posed a threat to the public and were therefore able to take his guns under a relatively new type of law—often referred to as a red flag law.
Cole served as an example Wednesday afternoon in Santa Fe as the legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee heard a pitch from Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Albuquerque, about enacting a similar law in New Mexico. Although, it’s unlikely Ely and other supporters will be using the term “red flag.”
“I’ve been trained not to use that term, but it is the same thing,” Ely said, adding that mental health professionals prefer not to use the term.
Ely said he used Cole as an example because it shows “The value of an extreme risk protection order.”
Ely’s Extreme Risk Protection Order Act would allow police to temporarily confiscate weapons from individuals a court has deemed a potential danger. The Albuquerque lawmaker said the proposal is similar to a bill he cosponsored during the 2019 legislative session.
“This is a bill that allows law enforcement or household members to petition a court, and with evidence, convince a court that a person is an imminent threat,” he told the committee.
Ely’s proposal was met with mostly support by committee members, but the sole Republican in attendance had some issues with the standards the courts and police would use to determine if someone is a threat.
Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, said he could understand legal intervention for someone making “a credible threat on the internet,” but was concerned about the burden of proof in Ely’s proposal.
“I think you need to use the highest standard if you’re going to deny a person a constitutional right,” Rehm said.
But Ely argued a person’s right to own a gun would not be violated.
“We’re not taking guns away forever, we’re not locking people up, we’re trying to save lives,” Ely said.
Under the proposal, if a person is deemed by a court to be a danger and their guns are taken away, they would have the opportunity to argue their case in a court hearing. If no further action is taken after the initial confiscation, Ely said, the guns would be returned.