Sat. Jan 18th, 2020

Red-flag gun legislation draws opposition in New Mexico

SANTA FE (AP)- Sheriffs across much of New Mexico are opposed to a legislative proposal from Democratic lawmakers that would allow police or relatives to petition a court to temporarily take away guns from people who might harm themselves or others, a legislative liaison for the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association said Wednesday.

Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton said association members want to ensure due process protections remain in place for gun owners and that no compromise was reached so far with lawmakers on so-called red-flag legislation. The annual legislative session begins Jan. 21 and lasts 30 days.

Opposition from elected law enforcement officials may portend a repeat of 2019′s caustic debates about gun control at the Statehouse. Gun control proposals last year spawned a Second Amendment sanctuary movement in mainly rural areas, where sheriffs presented resolutions to their county commissions saying they would not be required to enforce the new laws.

Hamilton said sheriffs are concerned that red-flag laws would be ineffective and produce unintended consequences by undermining constitutional protections.

“There are existing laws on the books that allow for law enforcement to investigate those individuals engaged in a mental health crisis,” Hamilton said, describing procedures for establishing probable cause and arranging transportation to medical treatment. “I would much rather just transport that person than take away one mechanism (gun) unconstitutionally and leave him with knives and explosives and anything else that will allow him to carry out his ill will.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday threw her political weight behind efforts to enact red-flag gun provisions this year.

“Without this tool, you can’t have law enforcement engage before a horrific tragedy,” Lujan Grisham said at a news conference in Las Cruces.

New Mexico last year extended background check requirements to nearly all private gun sales and prohibited firearms possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence. The governor and Senate Democratic majority leader Peter Wirth have invoked the August 2019 mass shooting in neighboring El Paso, Texas, as evidence of the need for further reform.

Leading Republicans in the House minority on Wednesday vowed to protect gun rights during the upcoming legislative session.