Gun and Public Safety in New Mexico

by | Jan 31, 2024 | News and Interviews, Newsletters

On January 16, in her State of the State address, Governor Lujan Grisham covered a broad range of topics, including affordable housing construction, education and clean energy. But the governor, who last year instituted a public health order restricting where people can carry guns, highlighted ambitious gun safety legislation she wants pasted during the 2024 legislative session.

Proclaiming “enough is enough” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for the enactment of gun safety package that would ban assault weapons and make purchases of automatic and semiautomatic weapons legal only for people at least 21 years old with a two-week waiting period.  The Governor said this:

 “This is the most important work we’re going to do. … Because all the other stuff, the jobs, the futures, the homes, the education — really, we can’t keep New Mexicans safe.”

On January 12, 2024, notwithstanding that the 2024 legislative session is a 30 short budgetary session, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her support of bills she wants lawmakers to consider during the session to address public safety. The governor is also asking lawmakers to discuss a handful of crime-related bills backed by both Democratic lawmakers as well as Republicans.

Three of the gun safety initiatives Lujan Grisham is supporting for the 2024 session are in fact failed legislation from the 2023 Legislative session.  The bills from the 2023 legislative session that failed include:

  • House Bill 101, which would have prohibited people from possessing assault weapons;
  • House Bill 100,which would have established a 14-day waiting period for guns; and
  • Senate Bill 116,which would have made it illegal for anyone younger than 21 to purchase an automatic or semi-automatic firearm, all died in committee.

The current versions of the bills are set to be carried by all the same lawmakers who sponsored them last year.

The governor’s public safety priorities include the following 21 bills dealing with firearms and cracking down on crime with the sponsors identified:

  • The Firearm Industry Accountability Act amends the state statue to allow gun manufacturers to be held liable for deceptive trade practices. (Sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler)
  • Assault weapons ban lawfully regulates the manufacture, possession and sale of weapons of war, most often the gun used in mass casualty events. (Sponsored by Rep. Andrea Romero)
  • Raising the age to purchase automatic firearms to 21 from the current minimum of 18 years of age. (Sponsored by Rep. Reena Szczepanski)
  • Firearms purchase waiting period creates a protracted waiting period of 14 days between the initiation of a federal background check and a buyer taking possession of a firearm, thereby reducing the opportunity for gun violence and suicide. (Sponsored by Rep. Andrea Romero)
  • Prohibiting guns in polling places makes it illegal to carry firearms within 100 feet of polling places during an election. (Sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth)
  • Prohibiting guns in parks and playgrounds will make it illegal to carry a firearm in county or municipal parks, playgrounds, and their accompanying parking lots.
  • Increased criminal penalty of the crime of second-degree murder raises the maximum penalty from 15 to 18 years. (Sponsored by Sen. Antonio Maestas)
  • Felons in possession of firearms increases the criminal penalty for felons found to be in possession of guns making it a second-degree felony. (Sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil)
  • Amending the human trafficking statute increases the statute of limitations, criminal penalties, and victim protections under New Mexico’s current human trafficking statute. (Sponsored by Rep. Marian Matthews)
  • Changes to commercial burglary statute will strengthen law enforcement’s ability to respond to businesses that have revoked a person’s right to enter or remain on their property due to a prior theft. It will allow police to charge offenders with the crime of commercial burglary, a 4th-degree felony.
  • Pretrial detention is legislation designed to create a rebuttable presumption for persons charged with serious, largely violent offenses. Unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence, a defendant that poses a threat to the safety of community members can be held in custody pending trial. (Sponsored by Sen. Craig Brandt)
  • Mandated treatment will give judges a more robust avenue to civilly commit individuals who are a danger to themselves or society.
  • RICO amendments will update the existing Racketeering Act by adding additional crimes to include human trafficking, rape, exploitation of children, escape from penitentiary, and tampering with public records.
  • ERPO amendments are designed to amend the Extreme Risk Firearms Protection Order Act. Specifically, it will provide an expedited process where orders are issued 24-7 via an on-call judge, a requirement of immediate relinquishment of firearms upon service of an order. This legislation also changes reporting parties to include law enforcement and health care professionals. (Sponsored by Reps. Christine Chandler, Joy Garratt)
  • Return to work for public safety personnel is designed to provide a mechanism to allow for public safety personnel who previously retired from PERA to be able to return to work and continue to serve their communities. The goal of the bill is to be able to shore up significant public safety personnel vacancy rates in state, county and municipal public safety agencies.
  • Panhandling ban will prohibit the unlawful use of public spaces, streets, sidewalks, curbs, with the primary goal of increasing public safety and vehicular efficiency.
  • Misdemeanor DWI search warrant requirement amendment will update the requirements for testing the blood of a suspected intoxicated driver to include both drugs and alcohol for misdemeanor crimes when the arrested person refuses testing.
  • Hazing penalties will criminalize hazing and aggravated hazing, protecting students or prospective students in New Mexico. Hazing is a misdemeanor and aggravated hazing a fourth-degree felony. This bill provides for criminal penalties for teachers, coaches or other reporting parties who knew, or should have known about hazing and failed to report it.
  • Data sharing requirements for law enforcement agencies will require the regular reporting of crime data from law enforcement agencies to the state as a condition of state funding.
  • Firefighter, law enforcement, corrections officer recruitment fund is designed to provide financial support to recruit candidates to these critical public safety fields.
  • Compensation increases for State Police, corrections/parole officers provides for a 14% funding increase ($11.5 million) for State Police and an 8% increase ($7.2 million) for corrections, probation & parole officers.


 Maybe one of these years, New Mexico will enter the 20th century (the 21st century is a “bridge too far”) and field a professional, paid legislature that meets more than 90 days every two years!  Getting serious about crime and gun safety is one thing, having the where-with-all to do something about them is another.  The residents of the Land of Enchantment need to wake up and join contemporary society.  They need to demand action by their elected representatives but more importantly they need to amend the State constitution to facilitate that action.  Enough of this “Agrarian society” mindset!

Of course, gun safety and crime prevention laws must pass constitutional mustard.  With the current yahoos on the US Supreme Court, that’s a tricky proposition.  If New Mexicans are living in the 19th century, the “know-nothings” on the Court are residing in the 18th century, when muskets were the firearms of choice and people thinly spread-out across the US. Yet the backward thinking of a majority of justices should not prevent New Mexicans from enacting sane gun and public safety measures.  Otherwise, the carnage continues.

Note:  The description of the governor’s state of the state address is excerpted from Pete Dinelli’s Blog of 1/17/24.

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