Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

New Mexico Senate endorses red-flag gun bill

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico state Senate on Friday endorsed a red-flag gun bill that was recently revised.

The bill won Senate approval on a 22-20 vote with Republicans and four Democrats voting against it. The proposal moves to the House, which last year approved a similar measure that languished.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has urged the Democratic-led Legislature to provide new avenues for law enforcement to prevent gun violence and better secure the safety of schools.

“The extreme risk protection order is part of an effort to give law enforcement every single tool,” she stated after the Senate vote.

The bill as currently written would allow law enforcement officers to petition a state district court to order the temporary surrender of firearms. Complaints about gun owners by relatives or school administrators would be presented to law enforcement officials and not directly to the court.

Rural sheriffs have opposed the legislation, arguing it would infringe on constitutional guarantees and that officers can already intervene in the event of a mental health crisis and detain people for their own safety or a who present danger to others.

Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton, a legislative liaison to the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, said Friday that the bill still “gives the appearance of a gun grab” by authorities and was unlikely to improve public safety.

Republican Senate minority leader Stuart Ingle of Portales cautioned against the legislation.

“We cannot trample on constitutions in order to address the emotions of the moment,” he said.

In Senate debate, bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes described ways in which the initiative addresses a long list of concerns raised by an expert aligned with the firearms industry about preserving due process rights for gun owners. One amendment Friday inserted the right to an immediate court appeal by gun owners.

Recent revisions to the New Mexico red-flag bill removed a provision that would have allowed family members to directly petition courts for the removal of firearms when a relative appears to pose a threat to themselves or others.

An amendment Friday allows school principals or college administrators to request that police intervene to remove firearms. Another change raised the legal standard of proof needed for a one-year order for gun removal, from probable cause to a preponderance of the evidence.

Lawmakers last year expanded background-check requirements to cover nearly all private gun sales and enacted a law that prohibits firearms possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.

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