Gov Will Introduce Assault Weapons Ban in Upcoming Session

Measure will be modeled on federal legislation co-sponsored by US Sen. Heinrich, D-NM

Assault rifles. A high-capacity ammunition device. Handguns. Ballistic vests. These were some of the items law enforcement seized from just one repeat violent offender as a result of the state’s ongoing public health order regarding gun violence.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and members of her administration yesterday held a news conference on public safety and to update the public on the impacts of the gun PHO, along with an accompanying one also declaring substance abuse a public health emergency with orders to both law enforcement and health officials to attack the problem from a variety of angles.

“Gun violence is out of control,” the governor said yesterday. “Violence is out of control. Public safety and crime is out of control…It is out of control all across America. And that is not to sound defensive or say, ‘So New Mexico is fine.’ We are not fine. Any violence in our communities is not acceptable. We’re seeing the same terrible trend lines. But I have to say, we’re the only state in America that is attacking it in this way. And I stand by it and we’re gonna keep doing the work to make it better and better.”

The governor’s original order in September included a 30-day suspension of open and concealed weapon carry in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, which swiftly prompted legal challenges and criticism, including from state Attorney General Raúl Torrez, who told the governor he would not defend the ban. The governor subsequently amended the ban to curtail weapons in areas with children—playgrounds and park—in the same locales, an order a federal judge allowed to stand in October. The governor renewed both public health orders last month and yesterday touted a variety of data, such as the 2,490 arrests made in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County since the orders were signed—40% of which were drug-related (a new dashboard rolled out with the health orders also displays such metrics).

“Let me just state unequivocally the public health order has been in effect three months, and it’s working,” the governor said yesterday. Nonetheless, she acknowledged the state isn’t “out of the woods,” a fact made “painfully clear” by the fatal shooting of an Albuquerque student last Friday night.

Lujan Grisham also said the upcoming legislative session—a 30-day session typically focused on finance and any topics the governor specifies—will be heavily focused on public safety. Part of that package, she said, will be an assault weapons ban, potentially modeled on the legislation co-sponsored by US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, the Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion (GOSAFE) Act, which would regulate firearms based on the lethality of their internal mechanisms. “Let’s try that vehicle in our own assault weapons ban in New Mexico,” the governor said. “Because one thing I have that the senator doesn’t have is I’ve got a set of lawmakers that are more likely than not to have a fair debate about guns, gun violence, weapons of war, and keeping New Mexicans safe.”

The governor also said she would be reviewing a proposal from Torrez, who yesterday released a letter to the governor and legislative leadership addressing public safety, along with eight policy proposals. Those proposals stem from public safety summits held by Torrez with law enforcement and behavioral health experts, and include some of the same elements emphasized by the governor yesterday in terms of integrating law enforcement and behavioral health to address the intermingling problems of substance abuse and violence in the state.

“We urge the governor and members of the legislature to make crime reduction a top priority in the upcoming legislative session and to carefully examine the recommendations of front line professionals who work every day to make our communities safer,” Torrez says in a statement. “Police officers and treatment providers in our state described the need to take a comprehensive, un-siloed approach to public safety that both makes enforcement swift and certain, and streamlines accessibility to upstream treatment and support services that address root causes of crime.”

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