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With Las Cruces state Sen. Joseph Cervantes and Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart at her side, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham came to Las Cruces Jan. 8 to announce that her 2020 legislative call will include an “extreme-risk protection order” (ERPO) bill that “reduces the opportunity for violence and suicide,” the governor said.
The bill “would allow household members and law enforcement officers to ask a court for an order – attesting to the urgent need for it under oath – to temporarily take weapons and ammunition from someone who is making violent threats against himself or others,” a news release from the governor’s office said. “The court would be required to hold a hearing within 15 days, and the weapons and ammunition would be returned when the order expires.”
New Mexico leads the nation in suicides by firearm, Lujan Grisham said, and has one of the highest rates of gun violence in the nation.
If the bill is passed in the 30-day legislative session that begins Jan. 21 in Santa Fe, New Mexico would join 17 other states and the District of Columbia that already have similar extreme-risk laws, sometimes called “red-flag” laws, the governor said.
The news release from her office said most of those laws “were enacted in the wake of the high school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Before that event, family members told law enforcement that the gunman exhibited warning signs of potential violence, but there was no clear process to restrict his access to guns, even temporarily.”
The Aug. 3 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, “brought our two communities together in a way no two communities should ever have to come together,” Cervantes said at the news conference. The shooter in that case, he said, published an online manifesto that spelled out his violent intentions before the shooting, but no action was taking to prevent it. The proposed bill, Cervantes said, will give the courts and law enforcement another tool to respond when “we know action is going to be taken.”
State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Doña Ana, said the bill could also help reduce suicide among military veterans in New Mexico suffering from depression and PTSD.
“We can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening with guns in our country,” said state Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Bernalillo, Sandoval, who also spoke at the news conference in Las Cruces.
The ERPO Act Ely introduced during the 2019 legislative session passed the New Mexico House of Representatives 39-30 but was never voted on in the Senate.
Lujan Grisham said ERPO legislation has broad support among Republicans and Democrats in New Mexico and nationwide, in part, because it “doesn’t create problems for responsible gun owners.”