Lincoln County commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve a resolution to become a 2nd Amendment sanctuary county in reaction to proposed state gun legislation.
Commissioner Elaine Allen cast the lone nay vote, saying while she concurred with many of the comments from the audience, she did not support the idea of a sanctuary status.
Commissioner Lynn Willard also expressed reservations, but voted with the majority.
Commissioner Tom Stewart offered amended language to include the “lack of common sense” in the legislative process and adding that the county will pursue litigation, if necessary.
Lincoln County Sheriff Robert Shepperd and other sheriffs across the state contend that some provisions in the proposed laws are unconstitutional.
People packed the commission chamber in Carrizozo and crowded into the lobby outside to show support or opposition to the resolution. Public comment lasted for more than an hour, with the majority favoring the move.
Commissioners also approved a resolution opposing legislation that would impose rules, regulations and restrictions exceeding federal laws on all private firearm transfers between individuals. The vote was unanimous.
The two resolutions were placed on the commission agenda after numerous pieces of gun legislation dealing with background checks at gun shows, seizure of firearms and ammunition in cases of restraining orders and other proposed new laws seemed destined to become law.
In an interview before the commission meeting, Shepperd said with the likelihood that all of the gun legislation bills will pass in the Legislature and land on the governor’s desk for a signature to become law, the resolution is one way to express the view argued by sheriffs before house and senate committees that many of the new provisions are unconstitutional.
“All the gun bills have gotten do-passes,” he said.
In reaction, the resolutions were drafted as a last-ditch attempt at pushing back against legislation supported by Gov. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who took office in January.
The sheriffs, including Shepperd, expressed opposition to the bills for weeks in legislative committee hearings.
Several counties last week declared themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries,” including Quay, Union, Socorro, Eddy and Curry.
Since then, Cibola approved the resolution and Taos County was set to consider a resolution, along with Lincoln County, Shepperd said.
“As far as I know any county presented with the resolution has passed it,” he said.
“Senate Bill 8 was heard early last week and the senate passed it with two or three amendments,” Shepperd said. “They will reconcile House Bill 8 and SB 8, but more than likely the senate bill will prevail, because the senate is higher on the political totem pole and that bill will go to the governor’s desk to be signed, and she said she would sign it.”
The gun bills
Senate Bill 8 creates a new section of Chapter 30, Article 7 NMSA 1978 making it unlawful to sell a firearm without a background check, a provision directly related to gun shows.
Senate Bill 8 prohibits the sale of a firearm without conducting a federal instant background check, if the sale is made for a fee or other consideration. The bill excludes the sale of a firearm by a person who holds a valid federal firearms license; to a law enforcement agency; or between two law enforcement officers authorized to carry a firearm, but did not exempt nonfunctional antique guns.
HB 83 creates a civil process by which a law enforcement officer or household member can petition the district courts for a protective order against an individual who poses an immediate danger and possesses a firearm.
It authorized the search of a location and seizure of firearms and ammunition owned by someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.
“It has passed everything on the house side,” Shepperd said.
Shepperd was in Santa Fe Saturday arguing against HB 493, a new process for officer involved shootings.
“It’s overreaching, and required the district attorney to notify the governor, who appoints a special prosecutor,” Shepperd said. “(12th Judicial District Attorney John Sugg) said almost all (District Attorneys) are against it, because it takes the (jurisdiction) away from them.
“I know (Commission Chairman Preston Stone) received lot of calls asking if they should sign petition or show up (at the commission meeting). I prefer they show up. In my opinion, if you are standing there talking to your commissioners in your district, that has more effect than a petition.”
Shepperd said he was amused by comments on social media in connection to a Ruidoso News story about his stance on the proposed new gun laws.
One person wrote that the only reason Shepperd was pushing the resolution was because he wanted to be reelected. Shepperd has served two terms and cannot run for a third. He has two-years left in his term.
“People need to educate themselves before the hit the keyboard,” he said. “Fortunately, there are others on social media who usually handle (inaccurate comments) anyway.”
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