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Lawmakers to attend domestic terrorism summit

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Local lawmakers will be among the attendees at a domestic terrorism summit convened by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in Santa Fe Wednesday.

Lujan Grisham on Aug. 5 invited a bipartisan collection of top state legislators and public safety officials to Santa Fe for a summit after Patrick Crusius, 21, allegedly entered an El Paso, Texas Walmart with an AK-47 and opened fire, leaving 22 people dead and 24 others wounded. Crusius later surrendered to police and admitted he carried out the attack with the intention of targeting Mexicans, according to authorities.

The summit will include a briefing from the FBI about domestic terrorism meant to be the starting point for a discussion about how state and local law enforcement can take steps to help safeguard communities against mass violence, according to Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham.

State Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, the top Republican in the New Mexico Senate, and State Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, the House minority leader, were among those invited to the summit.

Ingle, whose district includes Chaves County, said he looks forward to hearing from representatives from the FBI and New Mexico State Police about what can be done to tackle the problem of domestic terrorism.

“I look forward to the discussion and we will take it from there and see what develops,” he said.

Ingle though said it is hard to tell what if anything will come out of the meeting, but he hopes that it can prevent violence on the scale of that which happened in El Paso and later in Dayton, Ohio.

“I’m really at a loss to tell you what I think can happen. I’ve got to listen to those folks and see what they come up with, but whatever we can figure out, is something hopefully that can stop something like this from happening,” Ingle said in reference to the El Paso shooting.

Townsend said Monday he will not be able to attend the summit, but will send House Republican Caucus chair and State Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, in his place.

Ezzell said Monday that she will be at the summit. Ezzell called the summit a good opportunity for passionate dialogue between people of different viewpoints on domestic terrorism.

However, she said that she does not want the discussion to become partisan and focused only on gun control legislation.

Among the issues likely to come up are gun safety measures, Ingle said.

In the last legislative session, the Legislature passed and Lujan Grisham signed a bill that requires background checks be conducted for most firearms sales within the state of New Mexico.

Republicans and gun rights activists decried the legislation as a measure that was unenforceable and would compromise the rights of law-abiding citizens. Supporters said it would keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them.

The shootings in El Paso and Dayton have also renewed discussion of so-called “red flag” bills, which would allow police to confiscate firearms or ammunition from an individual believed to be a threat to themselves or others if a family member or law enforcement officer obtains an order from a judge. Such a law ultimately did not pass the New Mexico Senate.

Townsend said that while there were some good elements within the bill, there were not enough protections in place to safeguard the rights of firearm owners.

Ezzell though said the discussion needs to be less about gun control and more about assisting those with mental health conditions. She noted that many of the perpetrators of recent acts of mass violence have had mental health issues.

The state lost many mental health providers years ago during the administration of former Gov. Susanna Martinez, Ezzell said.

“We need our focus to be on helping those that are mentally unstable and to identify them,” she said.

New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, has suggested a special legislative session to deal with the issue of domestic terrorism.

Ingle though said he wants to hear more.

“I think we need to have something a little bit more laid out for the various caucuses to look at, both sides of the Legislature before we even begin to talk about a special session,” Ingle said.

Stelnicki also said it is too soon to talk about any special session.

“Nothing is off the table completely, but it’s premature to talk about it before the summit and that has been the governor’s message the entire time, pretty clearly,” he said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.