Chaves County commissioners voted to adopt a resolution opposing a controversial gun safety measure, known as the “red-flag bill,” that is on the verge of becoming law in New Mexico.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to pass A Resolution Declaring Opposition to the Extreme Risk Firearms Protective Order Act, a move met with cheers from an audience that packed the commission chambers and spilled out into the rotunda of the county administrative building.
“The proposed law does not provide sufficient due process, creates an additional burden on the already overworked district courts and creates a new responsibility that exposes law enforcement to additional dangers,” the resolution states.
Lea, Lincoln, Otero and Torrance counties have passed similar resolutions.
The resolution is in response to the passage by the New Mexico House of Representatives and Senate of the Extreme Risk Firearms Protection Order Act, also known as Senate Bill 5 (SB 5). The bill now heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk to be signed into law.
SB 5 is a red-flag law, which allows a district court to issue an order to temporarily prevent a person from owning, purchasing or possessing firearms if a judge determines, through probable cause, that person represents a danger to themselves or others.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have similar laws in place.
Supporters of the law say it is a tool for law enforcement to curb gun violence and suicides.
Will Cavin, chair of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, said before the meeting that it is not guns, but behavioral health that is the root cause of violence.
“So we find it really disingenuous for our state and our Legislature and our governor to think they are going to solve these issues by taking guns away from people,” Cavin said.
He added the law could also open the county up to liability as the result of possible lawsuits from individuals who have their firearms taken away and stored by the county.
“And I find it disingenuous for the state to put that burden on us as a county,” Cavin said.
Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington has been a vocal opponent of the bill, going so far as to say he will not enforce it.
He has said SB 5 would infringe upon the Constitution’s Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms, as well as the Fourth Amendment’s rights against unreasonable searches and seizures; the Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment; and the Fourteenth Amendment’s rights to due process.
“All of these would be violated by implementing the red-flag law,” Herrington said.
Speaking to the crowd before the vote, Herrington said SB 5 also was unnecessary because laws already exist on the books allowing law enforcement to intervene when someone poses a threat to themselves and others.
The stance made Herrington a popular figure among SB 5 opponents who were at the meeting. Many in attendance such as Pat and Cathy Crossley of Roswell, wore stickers that said, “I support my sheriff.” Cathy Crossley said she worries SB 5 could be abused.
“I think it could be used against someone you are just angry at and not for the purpose they say it was written for,” she said
Bob Carroll of Roswell, though, said after the meeting he believes SB 5 is a reasonable law, with protections in place for gun owners, and he thinks taking up such resolutions is counterproductive.
“I mean the resolutions really have no binding effect,” Carroll said. He added that if the county thinks such laws are unconstitutional, they should take them to court.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at email@example.com.