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County to vote on resolution against gun law

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Members of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners will take up a resolution at their next meeting, expressing opposition to a controversial gun safety law that passed the New Mexico House of Representatives Thursday.

A resolution declaring opposition to the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, also known as Senate Bill 5, will be voted upon by the commission Thursday, Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. in the Commission Chambers in the Chaves County Administrative Building, according to an item on the meeting’s agenda.

The resolution states about the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act that “the proposed law does not provide sufficient due process, creates an additional burden on the already overworked district court and exposes law enforcement to additional dangers.”

Mike Herrington, Chaves County sheriff, said at a meeting Thursday, he was going to try to present the resolution at this month’s commissioners meeting. The resolution is modeled after one passed by the Lea County Board of Commissioners.

He said the resolution is similar to another passed last April in which Chaves County joined most of the state’s other counties in becoming Second Amendment Sanctuary Cities after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill expanding background checks for gun sales. The Board of Commissioners in April passed that resolution, 5-0.

SB 5 passed the New Mexico House of Representatives 39 to 31 Thursday after winning approval of the Senate, 22-20 Feb. 7. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, who expressed her support for the measure in January just before the 30-day legislative session got underway, is expected to sign it into law.

SB 5 is a so-called “red-flag bill”, which puts in place a process by which a person can petition for an order to have the firearms and ammunition temporarily confiscated from someone believed to be an imminent danger either to themselves or other people.

That petition is then given to law enforcement, who in turn, brings it to a district judge. If a judge determines there is probable cause to determine the individual is a danger, a temporary order is issued preventing the person from possessing, owning or purchasing firearms.

Ten days after the temporary order is granted, a hearing is held to determine whether a one-year extreme protection order should be issued.

Proponents said the bill is a tool to curb gun violence and the state’s high suicide rate.

State Rep. Anthony Maestas, D-Albuquerque, gave an emotional speech in which he spoke about how his cousin, who was suicidal, had a gun but despite the pleas from her family, she did not turn the gun over to family members.

There was no legal tool that would allow her family to force her to give up her gun. He said she completed suicide in December by shooting herself.

“This is just a reasonably situated effort so families can save the people they love,” Maestas said.

Several amendments to SB 5 proposed by Republicans were defeated during debate Thursday. Adoption of any amendment would have forced the bill to be taken up by the Senate again.

Many of the bill’s critics, such as state Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell, believe SB 5 conflicts with the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

“I believe SB 5 as written is a violation of the Second Amendment,” Anderson said shortly after Thursday night’s vote.

He added that he thinks it also would violate people’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, and their 14th Amendment rights to due process.

“SB 5 proponents said there would be no impact on law-abiding gun owners and I believe this idea is pure bull crap,” Anderson said.

Other legislators said the bill was flawed. State Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, and the House Minority Leader, said that Republicans and their legal counsel identified numerous issues that he said infringe upon the rights of New Mexicans.

“This bill is not ready for prime time. This bill has holes in it,” said Townsend during the debate.

Some Republicans argued the bill was being rushed.

When it was passed by the Senate, SB 5 was amended six times while it was on the Senate floor. After it was brought before the House, it was assigned to one committee — the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

State Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said in a Feb. 10 Facebook post that he requested the bill be sent to the House Judiciary Committee on which he sits, due to what he said are constitutional concerns — but that request was denied.

A bill only being sent to one House committee before passage is something that is quite unusual, Nibert said.

“Even odder is if the bill raises legal questions, it generally gets a judicial referral,” Nibert said Thursday night after the vote.

State Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, said she has many problems with the bill, one of which is that if a law enforcement officer has a petition brought against them, the Office of the District Attorney and the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office will file the petition.

Ezzell said for the purposes of this bill, because the offices of the District Attorney in each judicial district and the state Attorney General could be considered law enforcement, they might have to go through training, further burdening the offices of district attorneys that are already overburdened.

“They have enough to do, without having to worry about confiscating somebody’s guns,” Ezzell said.

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