In September, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared gun violence a public health emergency in New Mexico. While a decision on the legality of that order remains pending in the state Supreme Court, the governor and several lawmakers on Jan. 12 previewed a package of public safety bills they will push in the upcoming legislative session starting Jan. 16.
“We have a gun problem,” Lujan Grisham said during a news conference. “And we have a public safety problem. We have a responsibility to children, to families, to communities to solve it.”
The bills include one sponsored by state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, designed penalize the creation, possession and sale of assault weapons and provide misdemeanor penalties for possession “and for arming oneself during the commission, or attempted commission of a felony is guilty of a separate 4th degree felony,” according to information provided by the governor’s office.
“Certainly leading the charge on a lot of this are our youth,” Romero said during the news conference. “They’re terrified to go to school today. And this is one way in which we can show them that we love them, we have their backs and we want them to be safe.”
Romero also is listed as sponsor of an as-yet-to-be filed bill that provides a 14-day waiting period “between the initiation of a federal background check and the buyer taking possession of the firearm,” along with criminal penalties for violations (misdemeanor) during sales (with possible exceptions, such as for law enforcement). The bill, a fact sheet says, is “designed to create a cooling off period so that firearms cannot be purchased quickly, thereby reducing the opportunity for violence and suicide.”
State Rep. Reena Szczepanski, D-Santa Fe, will be sponsoring a bill to raise the age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21 and prohibit the possession of weapons capable of using high-capacity magazines.
State Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, says he intends to push forward legislation that has yet to make it to the governor’s desk that would change the state’s pretrial detention laws to require a rebuttable presumption for people charged with “seriously, largely violent offenses.” The governor and other law enforcement officials have consistently backed similar proposals, although multiple studies have shown such changes would not significantly reduce crime. The legislation going forward this year, the governor’s office says, “does not alleviate the prosecution of its burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of the defendant.”
Other bills that will be put forward as part of the governor’s public safety package:
• A firearm industry accountability act that would change state statute to allow gun manufacturers to be held liable for deceptive trade practices
• Increased penalties for felon sin possession of firearms
• A bill allowing judges more options to mandate treatment for people who are dangerous to themselves or others
• Amendments to the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to include human trafficking, rape, exploitation of children, escape from penitentiary and tampering with public records, and will also identify and include “criminal gangs into its definitions.” Another bill would amend the state’s human trafficking statute and increase the statue of limitations, penalties and victim support
• Amendments to the state’s Extreme Risk Firearms Protection Order Act providing, among other provisions, means to expedite processes
•Changes to commercial burglary statute
• Prohibiting guns in parks and playgrounds: The governor’s legally challenged executive order declaring gun violence a public health emergency includes a provision banning firearms in parks or playgrounds in Albuquerque and Bernalillo county. This legislation bars those acts statewide, along with accompanying parking lots, where they are “clearly defined as being owned by a county or municipality. Criminal penalties will be a 4th degree felony,” with possible exceptions for law enforcement, military and security guards.
• Prohibiting guns in polling places: Sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, the bill that would prohibit carrying firearms within 100 feet of a polling place during an election was introduced last year and did not make it all the way through. “Guns and voting is a toxic combination,” Wirth said. “Poll workers and voter across the sate are afraid and came to us asking for this bill...currently schools that are polling places ban guns, yet other polling places that aren’t in a school you can walk in with a long rifle. That makes no sense.” Wirth said he was confident the bill could make it to the governor’s desk this year and “if there’s ever a year where a bill like this is needed, this is the year.”
• A bill allowing public safety personnel who previously retired from PERA to return to work and is considered a way of helping to beef up vacancy rates in public safety jobs: Other bills will provide financial support to recruit firefighters, law enforcement and correction officers, while another will provide a 14% funding increase ($11.5 million) for state police and an 8% increase ($7.2 million) for corrections, probation and parole officers.
• A panhandling ban that would “prohibit the unlawful use of public spaces, streets, sidewalks, curbs, with the primary goal of increasing public safety and vehicular efficiency”
• A misdemeanor DWI search warrant requirement amendment “designed to amend the requirements for testing the blood of a suspected intoxicated driver to include both drugs and alcohol for misdemeanor crimes when the arrested person refuses testing”
• A bill to criminalize hazing and aggravated hazing comes in the aftermath of allegations of hazing followed by lawsuits alleging sexual assault among New Mexico State University basketball players: The bill makes hazing a misdemeanor and aggravated hazing a 4th degree felony; provides for criminal penalties for teachers, coaches or other reporting parties who fail to report known instances of the crimes; and creates an online reporting portal.
• A bill to amend human trafficking statute: Rep. Marian Matthews, D-Albuquerque, plans to introduce this legislation designed to amend the human trafficking statute by increasing the statute of limitations, penalties, and victim protections.
• A bill requiring regular reporting of crime data from law enforcement agencies as a condition of state funding
• A bill increasing the criminal penalty for 2nd degree murder from 15 years to 18 years and increasing the maximum penalty for attempted 2nd degree murder from 3 to 9 years: Last year, the governor signed a bill eliminating the statute of limitations for 2nd degree murder.