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Divided Democrats Fail to Pass Red Flag Law in New Mexico

By: Robert Davis

Democrats control New Mexico’s state government, yet failed to pass popular leftist policies like a red flag gun confiscation law when the legislative session ended on March 16, while a pro-gun policy –arming school resource officers – passed.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham did, however, sign SB 8 to expand background checks to include private firearm sales, and SB 328, a bill to expand prohibitive gun ownership to include those convicted of domestic violence and stalking.

“What we saw this session was a large percentage of rural Democrats voting with Republicans,” Zach Fort, president of the New Mexico Sport Shooting Association, told Gunpowder Magazine. “We also got a glimpse of the governor’s micro-managerial leadership style, which I think played a larger part on the vote than it’s been given credit for.”

Grisham was searching for a victory toward the end of the session, Fort says. Her bill to make abortions more easily accessible lost in an embarrassing floor vote, and her coalition was divided over SB 76, a bill to prohibit coyote killing competitions.
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So, Gov. Grisham asked her party leaders to push through the red flag bill in order to end the session with a bang. The bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, with the Democratic chairman, Richard Martinez, refusing to bring the legislation up for a vote.

“A lot of Democrats weren’t really concerned with the Second Amendment implications of the bill so much as the Fourth and Fifth Amendment,” Fort said. “Even the pro-gun control Democrats were very hesitant to take away someone’s property without them having committed a crime. They said it was a mockery of due process.”

Under HB 83, the state’s red flag bill, New Mexicans would be able to petition a court to have one of their relative’s weapons confiscated because they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or their community. The petitioner must submit a sworn affidavit under the penalty of perjury, and the court must find the respondent to be a danger under the preponderance of evidence. At no time during the proceedings does the petitioner have to accuse the respondent of a crime. The petitioner simply has to convince the court that the respondent is acting dangerously and will continue doing so.

GPM reported earlier this year that 29 of New Mexico’s 33 counties passed “Second Amendment Sanctuary Resolutions” in response to the legislation. Sheriff Tony Mace, president of the New Mexico Sheriffs Association, told GPM the resolutions “are one of the only ways gun owners can defend themselves against the aggressive legislation backed by Democrats who turned the state blue in 2018.”

That energy turned into results in 2019, and has a chance of making sure the legislation stays on the shelf in a shortened 2020 session, according to Fort.

“The sanctuary county resolutions certainly had a lot to do with how Democrats voted this session,” Fort said. “I expect that we’ll see Democrats primarying members of their party that voted against the legislation this time around.”

New Mexico’s state legislature operates on alternating 30 and 60-day sessions. In 2019, they had a 60-day session, meaning that next year, it will be 30 days. 2020 is also an election year across the country, meaning Democrats will have to retain their majority to reintroduce the red flag bill effectively.

“It’s going to be very hard to get contentious legislation like this pushed through in a 30-day session,” Fort said. “And it seems all of the energy is on our side now.”

Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.