Morning Word

New Gun Laws Ban Weapons at Polling Sites, Impose Seven-Day Waiting Period

State rests its case in “Rust” armorer trial

Gov signs public safety laws

While Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has yet to announce whether she will call back state lawmakers to a special session focused on public safety, yesterday in Albuquerque she signed legislation she said “strikes at the heart of issues that are keeping New Mexicans up at night.” House Bill 129, the Firearm Sale Waiting Period Crimes, for instance, creates a statewide seven-day waiting period to purchase firearms, twice as long as the federal waiting period, though it includes exemptions for concealed carry permit holders, federal firearms licensees and law-enforcement transactions. “We are taking a commonsense step to save lives and make communities safer across New Mexico,” lead sponsor state Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, says in a statement, noting that the seven-day “cooling-off period will help prevent impulsive acts of violence and self-harm and give law enforcement the time they need to complete necessary background checks to keep New Mexicans safe.”

Senate Bill 5 prohibits carrying firearms within 100 feet of polling places and ballot receptacles, with lead sponsor Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, calling its enactment before the next election cycle “important” given that “guns and voting are a toxic mix.” SB96 increases penalties for second-degree murder-related offenses, while SB271 requires judges hold certain violent defendants without bond if they have allegedly committed another felony offense while out on bond for a prior violent offense. “For too long, career criminals have been able to count on committing crimes and, if caught, being released by the next day,” Sen. Daniel A. Ivey-Soto D-Albuquerque, says in a statement. “Now, those criminals will be held until each judge that ordered the person not to commit more crimes has a chance to review their conditions of release and decide if they still qualify to be on the streets while awaiting trial. It is simple, straightforward, and will be effective.”

Prosecution rests in Rust trial

Albuquerque PDQ Arm and Prop owner Seth Kenney told jurors yesterday he personally inspected all of the .45 Long Colt dummy rounds he provided to the Rust production, and did not supply live ammunition for the movie. The ammunition found on the set, he noted, did not match the live ammunition found when law enforcement executed a search warrant on his business. Moreover, former armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed told him in conversation and text message she had taken her own .45 Long Colt rounds to the set. Gutierrez-Reed faces involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering charges in relation to the Oct. 21, 2021 fatal on-set shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Actor and producer Alec Baldwin, who was holding the gun that fired and killed Hutchins, also faces involuntary manslaughter charges and heads to trial this July; Baldwin has said he did not pull the gun’s trigger. Prosecutors, who rested their case in Gutierrez-Reed’s trial yesterday, have depicted the armorer, 24 years old at the time of the shooting, as negligent in her duties and responsible for the live ammo on set and loaded into the weapon. Yesterday’s testimony also touched on allegations Gutierrez-Reed tried to tamper with evidence by handing off a baggie of what another crew member assumed to be cocaine following the shooting. If convicted of both charges, Gutierrez-Reed faces up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The defense is slated to begin arguments at 10 am this morning.

NM delegation announces funds for Hermits Peak watershed plan

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will fund an approximate $2 million Watershed Restoration Plan for areas impacted by the catastrophic Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fire in 2022. According to a news release, the funding, part of the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act, will create a “land and water resource inventory” to identify land use, climate patterns, watersheds, topography and other key elements, along with a watershed resource and hydrologic assessment “to analyze resource conditions in the 42 watersheds within the areas directly impacted by the fire.” The data will be used to create a watershed restoration plan. “This funding provides us an opportunity to build a more resilient watershed that our communities can depend on,” US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, says in a statement. Recovery from the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, says, “means investing in land restoration to protect our environment,” which includes this “watershed restoration plan to repair the damage done to our environment and help guard against toxic waste and contaminants.” US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM, who represents the state’s 3rd Congressional District where the fire occurred, added that “as New Mexicans continue to rebuild after the fire ravaged our beautiful communities, forests, acequias and intergenerational homes, the federal government must do everything in its power to restore the land and water one acre at a time and compensate all victims.”

NM GOP picks primary candidates

New Mexico does not participate in today’s Super Tuesday contests, but over the weekend, the state Republican party chose its candidates for the statewide June 4 primary election (a handful of cities do hold municipal elections today; City of Santa Fe voters in 2018 approved a change aligning its election calendar with statewide contests). The Republican Party held its Pre-Primary Convention on Saturday at Hotel Albuquerque, primarily deciding uncontested races: Nella Domenici, who is challenging US Sen. Martin Heinrich; Yvette Herrell, who will attempt to reclaim her former US House seat in District 2 from Gabe Vasquez; and Sharon Clahchischilliage, who will challenge US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández in the 3rd Congressional District. Delegates voted upon and approved Louie Sanchez to run in the 1st Congressional District, held by US Rep. Melanie Stansbury. “The Republican candidates will prioritize the issues that affect New Mexicans every day, a clear contrast to the current Democratic representatives who are bought and owned by rich, progressive elites,” RPNM Chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement. New Mexico Democrats will hold their pre-primary convention virtually this coming Saturday, March 9. As of press time, neither state party had issued a response to yesterday’s US Supreme Court ruling allowing GOP presidential front-runner, former President Donald Trump, to remain on the Colorado ballot today. Colorado voters sought to keep Trump off that state’s ballot based on his role inciting the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, and the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in December he was indeed ineligible. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington helped bring the Colorado suit, as well as the New Mexico lawsuit that successfully removed former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin from office in 2022 following his misdemeanor conviction for trespassing on US Capitol grounds on Jan. 6.

Listen up

The producers of actor/comedian Dax Shepard’s A-list Armchair Expert podcast’s new show, Flightless Bird, features journalist David Farrier “learning about what makes America special, from his unique perspective as a Kiwi accidentally marooned in the Land of the Free.” In a recent episode, Farrier visits Roswell where he learns about its cat sanctuary, chows down on some local grub, visits the UFO-themed McDonalds and a whole lot more.

Rise and shine

With the spring equinox approximately two weeks away, Lonely Planet serves up “12 incredible places to celebrate.” (Note: LP lists the first day of spring as March 20, but it’s actually March 19 this year). Whenever it occurs, the spring equinox heralds warmer days and crop-related activities. Thus, Lonely Planet writes: “In anticipation of the event, people throughout history have built sites that align with the springtime sun. Some erected vast stones that wouldn’t cast a shadow during the equinox, while others built tombs that would only reveal their secrets when illuminated on the day.” The story recommends Chaco Culture National Park as one of the prime spots to experience the transition from winter to spring, where “several of the buildings mark significant astronomical events, the most impressive of which is Casa Rinconada, a large hilltop kiva (ceremonial and social chamber). During the spring equinox, the sun climbs the walls and shines through two aligned doorways and into a small niche in the wall.” As it happens, Chaco will present a spring equinox sunrise program on March 19, with gates opening at 6:30 am. Attendees can join park rangers “to observe the alignment of the spring equinox sunrise at Casa Rinconada,” with a brief talk just before sunrise.

Spring (break) fever

Speaking of spring, Travel Pulse includes Albuquerque in its top budget-friendly US destinations for spring break, citing an average nightly savings of 20% (compared with unspecified “traditional” destinations and based on purported calculations from rental marketplace site rental Whimstay). Spring breakers can “immerse” themselves in nature at Albuquerque BioPark, the story notes, and “take in panoramic views” at Sandia Peak Tramway (depending on the timing of spring break, as the tram is closed until approximately March 14 for maintenance). The Travel also has kind words for Albuquerque in its compendium of “10 gorgeous desert towns,” despite its status as the state’s largest city, describing it as “a great starting point for those who wish to see the many scenic desert town.” For those who prefer their outdoor spring activities a bit more indoor, Thrillist rounds up the “most beautiful caves in the US.” Naturally, Carlsbad Caverns National Park makes the list as a cool spot to check out and stay cool, for that matter “inside the 100+ millennia-old limestone caves” that “you can explore on a self-guided tour or a ranger-led tour for an additional fee. The 357,480-square-foot Big Room—the largest single cave chamber in the US—is the most popular cave, drawing some 300,000 visitors each year,” Thrillist reports. Closer to home, Essence magazine includes Santa Fe in its catalog of top US destinations to visit during spring break, with recommendations for the Hyde Memorial State Park waterfall trail and mountain biking on La Tierra Trails. The story also recommends whitewater rafting, but that will be hard to pull off in March.

Good day sunshine

The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny day, with a high temperature near 55 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Cooler, wetter weather remains on tap for later in the week.

Thanks for reading! Following yesterday’s revelation that Taylor Swift and Emily Dickinson are related, The Word envisions a Swift album of Dickinson covers titled Fame is a fickle food.”

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