SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she hopes to see strong leadership in the law enforcement community to implement a red flag gun initiative approved this week by the state's Democrat-led Legislature.
The second-year Democratic governor told news reporters Friday that she plans to sign the bill as soon as it reaches her desk after routine clerical procedures.
The legislation allows police and sheriffs deputies to petition a court for the surrender of household firearms from people who appear to pose a danger to themselves or others.
Petitions can be based on sworn affidavits filed by relatives, employers or school administrators, and authorities can be held liable for officers who fail to enforce the law.
“We're going to need strong leadership, right, from law enforcement individuals,” the governor said. “We're going to make sure that there's productive conversations about how this is going to work.”
The red-flag initiative has been a lightning rod of criticism from rural sheriffs, both Republican and Democratic, in a state with the strong culture of gun ownership and whose Capitol building allows open carry without routine security screenings for weapons.
State House Republicans held aloft copies of the state constitution in opposition to the red-flag legislation as it won final legislative approval Wednesday night.
Republican political candidates for U.S. Congress and Senate also are denouncing the soon-to-be law in dramatic fashion in the run-up to the state’s June primary.
Republican congressional candidate Claire Chase, a former oil lobbyist from Roswell, posted an online video Thursday where she challenges liberals to come and take her firearm and shoots an actual red flag with a rifle propped on the back of a pickup truck. She’s running for the GOP nomination against former state legislator Yvette Herrell to take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.
“We’re seeing these statements and I prefer today to believe that they’re just emotional responses to not winning on an issue,” Lujan Grisham said. “Members of law enforcement and first responders in particular swear an oath and they don’t get to be policy makers. … Even with these really tough disagreements with folks like the sheriffs, I expect that they will be professional and carry it out.”
An Associated Press analysis of the Florida red-flag law enacted by Florida in the wake of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School showed its use is inconsistent, with some counties and cities using it rarely and others not at all.
The Florida law has been applied more than 3,500 times and is supported by both major political parties.
Lujan Grisham’s election in 2018 following the departure of a termed-out Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, an outspoken proponent of gun rights, opened the way for gun control legislation in New Mexico.
Lawmakers last year expanded background checks to nearly all private firearms transactions and enacted firearms possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.
Lujan Grisham said mass shootings and school safety concerns have changed the way many legislators think and vote about gun regulations -- even in a Mountain West.
“These risks have shifted and changed the landscape,” she said.