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NM governor signs ‘red flag’ gun confiscation into law; tells sheriffs to enforce it or resign

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. (Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham/Facebook)
February 26, 2020

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a new gun control measure into law, allowing courts to temporarily confiscate firearms from non-criminal individuals identified as a risk of harming themselves or others. Grisham also told law enforcement that they must enforce the new law, or consider resignation.

Grisham signed the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act on Tuesday, CNN reported. A total of 17 other states have already signed some form of extreme risk protective orders, commonly referred to as “red flag” laws, into effect. New Mexico will become the 18th state with a “red flag” law on its books.

“The Legislature had the strength to pass this measure because we all recognize: Enough is enough,” Grisham said in a statement. “This law is sensible and balanced. It is a good public safety measure. If it saves even one life, and it will, we will have done good work here.”

The “red flag” legislation was a key priority for Grisham and she insisted that law enforcement officials carry out the confiscatory orders despite their objections.

“They cannot not enforce,” Grisham said before signing the law into effect. “And if they really intend to do that, they should resign as a law enforcement officer and leader in that community.”

Opponents of the measure, including both gun rights advocates and law enforcement officers, have claimed the law does not allow for due process.

Tony Mace, the head of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, warned in a weekend letter that the law does not allow gun owners to defend themselves when police initially arrive to enforce a confiscation order.

“Citizens have a right to bear arms and we cannot circumvent that right when they have not even committed a crime or even been accused of committing one,” Mace wrote. “‘Shall not be infringed’ is a very clear and concise component of an Amendment that our forefathers felt was important enough to be recognized immediately following freedom of speech and religion.”

Earlier in February, hundreds of gun rights activists rallied at the New Mexico capital in Santa Fe, in opposition to the proposed legislation. Thirty of 33 of Santa Fe’s sheriffs had opposed the legislation and several were present during the protest.

During the early February protest, Lincoln County Undersheriff Mike Wood said he is concerned about domestic violence issues, but does not believe the proposed confiscatory measures would help.

“We just don’t believe that taking firearms is the answer without due process,” Wood said at the time. “There’s an absolute potential for abuse.”

Other states that have instituted red flag gun confiscations have seen issues with their enforcement. A Maryland man was killed by police serving a “red flag” order in November of 2018. When police came to his door, Gary J. Willis, placed his gun by his doorway. When Willis was informed that police were there to take his firearms he reportedly objected and attempted to retrieve his gun before a struggle ensued and he was ultimately shot and killed.

Opponents of “red flag” orders have also expressed concern that the measures could be used to maliciously target gun owners who have shown no actual signs warranting confiscation. Proponents of New Mexico’s “red flag” bill adopted an apparent compromise that would allow only law enforcement officers to request the warrants and would require a hearing within 10 days to review the order and determine if the confiscation could then extend for a year.