New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law Tuesday legislation that will allow courts to order the temporary seizure of firearms from individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others.
“The Legislature had the strength to pass this measure because we all recognize: Enough is enough,” Lujan 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.”
Dubbed the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, the law adds New Mexico to a list of 17 other states that have passed similar “red flag” laws, allowing law enforcement to take away weapons from at-risk individuals.
The laws have faced heavy backlash – from both gun rights activists and law enforcement officials who say the measures violate residents’ Second Amendment rights and don’t follow due process.
In a public letter over the weekend, the head of the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association, Tony Mace, wrote that red flag laws don’t allow gun owners to defend themselves against an initial 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,” he 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.”
Speaking to reporters during the signing, the governor said law enforcement leaders had no choice but to enforce the law.
“They cannot not enforce,” she said. “And if they really intend to do that, they should resign as a law enforcement officer and leader in that community.”
Striking a balance
The signed legislation is a watered-down version of what was initially introduced. As first proposed, the bill allowed anyone to petition courts for a protective order. But a senate committee changed that provision to allow only law enforcement officials to do so, CNN affiliate KRQE reported.
Under the new law, the petition should be accompanied by information that would allow the court to determine whether a gun owner “poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others.”
If that’s the case and guns are taken away, a hearing held within 10 days would help determine whether the confiscation should last a year.
The law, supporters say, strikes the perfect balance between gun rights and safety.
“As other states have demonstrated, this measure saves lives,” Rep. Joy Garratt, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “I am deeply encouraged with this signing that New Mexico will be a model to other states struggling with gun violence.”
But even with the changes, law enforcement leaders said it imposed on rights granted by the Constitution.
“Many of the New Mexico sheriffs are still going to be concerned with the fact that there’s a gun confiscation before there’s a hearing,” Sierra County sheriff Glenn Hamilton told KRQE earlier this month.
In response to red flag laws, gun sanctuaries
President Donald Trump backed red flag laws after a spurt of shootings over the summer – including in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California.
But as states began passing their own versions of red flag laws, municipalities across the country responded by proclaiming themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries,” saying they wouldn’t enforce laws that infringe on their rights.
After counties in Illinois jump-started the movement in 2018, municipalities across Colorado, Virginia, California, Florida, Arizona and Texas began pushing back on gun regulations by becoming safe havens for gun owners.
In Colorado – where family, household members and law enforcement can petition a court for a protective order – sheriffs said last year they’d rather go to jail than enforce the law.
“My biggest fear for the law is violating someone’s constitutional rights and the potential for placing my deputies in a situation for an encounter with an armed individual,” Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams told CNN in 2019.