City councilors and a supportive audience rallied around Roswell joining Chaves County as a Second Amendment sanctuary city.
City Attorney Aaron Holloman said the item was brought to the city staff to make a statement of several items to be considered at the state and federal levels. Holloman said the resolution had three objectives that Roswell would become a sanctuary city for the Second Amendment, the city would show support of Chaves County’s resolution and would declare opposition to enforcing unconstitutional regulation of rights.
City councilors showed a majority of support in their comments on the resolutions at the first meeting held in the new council chamber at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center on Thursday night. All councilors were present, except Councilor George Peterson. Councilor Judy Stubbs made the motion and Councilor Barry Foster seconded it.
After discussion, Mayor Dennis Kintigh called for a roll-call vote and it passed 8 to 1 with Councilor Juan Oropesa casting the only dissenting vote. Councilors who were in favor and against, as well as participants, said this is not the end and the same issues may return to the Legislature next year.
Standing with sheriff
Sheriff Herrington said the city “can’t count on federal government or the state” to defend the city and county and that he would defend both “against unreasonable, unconstitutional or unenforceable law,” where laws are already in place to deal with felons having firearms.
Herrington said the proposed bill would violate the Fourth and Second amendments and deny due process where the sheriff can collect firearms without a judge’s approval until innocence was proven. When asked by Councilor Angela Moore, Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith said he would put safety first and still establish corroboration, sharing similar concerns to Herrington.
“The only people that this is going to affect is the citizens — law-abiding citizens — of Chaves County of the state of New Mexico,” Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington said. “I can tell you right now, there are 29 sheriffs in the state of New Mexico who have gone onto the floor and said they do not support this craziness that’s going on on the legislative floor. The bills that are being passed in regard to the abortions, to the guns — every one of them — there’s no common sense being used. The bad guys are not going to listen to any of these laws.
“And I’m going to tell you — the sheriff’s office is not big enough to store all the guns in Chaves County …”
The audience shared a round of applause after Herrington’s three minutes, resulting in a threat to clear the room from Kintigh if decorum was breached again.
Councilor Oropesa said he would not support the resolution, despite being a strong supporter of the U.S. Constitution as a U.S. Army veteran.
Addressing Holloman, Oropesa asked the difference between ordinance and resolution and Holloman said an ordinance is enforced by police officers and a resolution is a body speaking as a whole. For questioning constitutionality, Holloman said constitutionality goes through court. Oropesa said he believed the city could declare support, but declaring Roswell to be a sanctuary city was “beyond the legal authority that this has been granted to this body.”
Oropesa alluded to the fact that elected officials also take oaths to support federal and state constitutions and laws of the state. Oropesa referenced information articles from the Albuquerque Journal and said this resolution set “a dangerous precedent.” Oropesa also said the three largest counties have not joined the other Second Amendment sanctuary counties, which he said these counties also took similar actions for right-to-work laws.
“And lastly, let me say that New Mexico will be added to a list of roughly 20 states that have passed similar legislation,” Oropesa said. “I believe people are fed up with the taking of so many innocent lives that legislators throughout the nations are hearing the outcries of individuals and the need to address this issue — and New Mexico, in my opinion, has taken a stand by passing this law — and this law I do support.”
Councilor Jeanine Corn Best brought four “disarmed and zip tied” firearms from her family, which has had four generations in Roswell. She said firearms are a major part of American history and were used for “protection of livestock, homes, family.” She said “common sense, correct use, and teaching of firearms” has disappeared in America.
“So this tells me that the U.S. Constitution trumps the New Mexico Constitution,” Best said, referencing Article II, Section 6 of the Constitution of the state of New Mexico, in response to Oropesa’s questions. “So as a city councilor of Roswell New Mexico, who has sworn an oath in front of God and the city, for the people of the United States, above all else, (I) will support the United States Constitution. I believe fully in the Second Amendment and the right of our citizens to keep and bear arms …”
Saying he fully supported the resolution, Councilor Caleb Grant said he appreciates the sheriff for being active and supporting the community’s “ideology” and that he cares “what Chaves County says and what Roswell says,” rather than Santa Fe or Albuquerque.
Councilor Savino Sanchez said firearms do not pull their own triggers, but rather individuals do and “if hearts are not changed — then guns will continue to be blamed.”
Show of hands
When the public spoke, O.L. Adcock, president of the Roswell Gun Club, said the role of government was to defend the constitutional rights of residents. He said the city’s resolution of support sent a “loud and strong message” and added that in Santa Fe there are efforts to “protect coyotes and they’re authorizing killing babies.”
Public speakers reminded the councilors of their duty to protect the rights of the people, shared their support with local law enforcement, shared personal stories and spoke about gun safety.
Mayor Kintigh asked for a show of hands for those in support and nearly all of those seated raised their hands in favor. Two audience members raised hands in opposition.
The Second Amendment sanctuary resolution was passed at Legal Committee on Feb. 28 and by the county commissioners on Feb. 21. After reading the bill, Oropesa said there was nothing in the language that talks of infringement on the Second Amendment or taking firearms away. At the same meeting, he said he heard “a number of misrepresentations and over exaggerations of the facts” at the Legal Committee on Feb. 28.
Prior to this, Chaves County Board of Commissioners voted 5 to 0 on Feb. 21 to not enforce laws creating conflict with the right to keep and bear arms. Chaves County has joined upwards of 20 counties adopting comparable resolutions with gun safety bills to be considered by the New Mexico State Legislature.
More coverage of this meeting will appear in Sunday’s edition.
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.