Commissioners voted 5 to 0 Thursday at their regular monthly meeting to adopt a resolution to designate Chaves County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.
People for and against the resolution packed the commission chambers and the rotunda in the Chaves County Administrative Center. Commission Chair Will Cavin later said he did not have an exact number, but said someone estimated about 750 people were at the meeting.
The resolution allows the sheriff to not enforce state gun laws he believes conflict with the right of the people to keep and bear arms, guaranteed in both the U.S. Constitution and the New Mexico state Constitution.
Language in the resolution also states the board of commissioners will not authorize or appropriate funds, resources, employees or agencies to enforce laws that infringe upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
Public comment was not allowed at the meeting because it was not a public hearing, but Cavin asked supporters of the resolution before the vote to stand up and wave their hands. He then asked opponents of the resolution to do the same. Supporters of the resolution far outnumbered opponents.
“These laws should have never been passed — Santa Fe ought to be ashamed of themselves,” John Thosen of Roswell, a proponent of the resolution, said after the vote.
Chaves County now joins Curry, Cibola, Eddy, Lincoln, Quay, San Juan, Socorro, Union and Valencia counties as of Thursday afternoon, who have passed similar resolutions.
The resolutions are a response to several measures taken up by the New Mexico Legislature restricting access to guns. One of the bills that would require background checks for nearly all gun sales within the state has passed the House and Senate.
Another bill — which would suspend a person’s right to firearms or ammunition if a district judge determines that individual presents an imminent danger to themselves or other people — has passed the House.
The New Mexico Sheriff’s Association has been vocal in their opposition to the bill, with 29 out 33 of the state’s county sheriffs coming out against the bills saying the bills will not deter crime and are at odds with the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of New Mexico.
Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington was allotted time to speak about the resolution.
“The laws that are being proposed and passed will only restrict the law-abiding citizens and do nothing to prevent, force or hinder the criminals from obtaining and using firearms in an unlawful manner,” Herrington said.
Bob Carroll of Roswell said shortly before the vote that he disagrees with the resolution, calling it radical. He said the resolutions allow a sheriff to interpret the Constitution as they see fit and are themselves unconstitutional.
“The Supreme Court and the framers of the New Mexico Constitution intended that we not allow every county to decide which laws they are going to follow and which laws they are not,” he said.
Carroll said he understands the sheriff and commissioners don’t support the bills, but that if they are passed and signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, they will be law across the state of New Mexico.
“That’s the law, elections have consequences,” Carroll said. He added that he thinks background checks for gun sales are a good tool to protect people and keep guns out of the hands of felons and individuals with mental health issues.
Johnson said after the vote that she hopes the resolutions persuade Lujan Grisham not to sign the bills should they reach her desk.
Nora Sackett, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham said in an email Thursday the resolutions have not changed the governor’s mind and the measures do not violate the Second Amendment.
The resolutions amount to statements of opinion, which are fine, but state law will be followed, Sackett said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.