By: Robert Davis
New Mexico is on the brink of passing sweeping gun control legislation, even as a vast majority of the state’s law enforcement leaders do not approve of the measures.
The Albuquerque Journal reports on the current status of the pending legislation:
Senate Bill 8 – Require background checks be conducted before nearly all gun sales. Passed the Senate, headed to House floor.
House Bill 83 – Allow court-ordered seizures of guns from individuals deemed to pose an immediate danger. Passed the House, headed to second Senate committee.
House Bill 87 – Bar those convicted of a domestic violence offense from having a gun. Passed the House, headed to second Senate committee.
“There’s a lot of pessimism shared by those who want to protect their gun rights right now,” Zach Fort, president of the New Mexico Sport Shooting Association, told Gunpowder Magazine. “A lot of people think they’re being railroaded and not being listened to.”
Fort describes the situation in New Mexico as one where legislators who are on board with newly elected Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s aggressive gun control agenda are shutting themselves off from constituents. Some are refusing to return emails and phone calls.
But that isn’t stopping New Mexicans from fighting back.
Defiant Sheriffs and Sanctuary Counties
New Mexican gun rights activists are using a grassroots movement to push back against the gun control legislation making its way through the state legislature.
Out of the 33 county sheriffs in New Mexico, 29 signed a letter written by the New Mexico Sheriffs Association disapproving of the gun control push in Santa Fe (the full letter is published at the end of this article).
As of this writing, 24 of those counties have passed a “Second Amendment Sanctuary Resolution” declaring that sheriffs in those counties will not enforce any gun control legislation that is unconstitutional.
“Twenty-nine out of the 33 New Mexico Sheriffs agree that the rush to react to the violence by proposing controls on guns is ill conceived and is truly a distraction to the real problems proliferating violence in our counties and our state,” the letter reads.
New Mexico Sheriffs Association President Tony Mace told Gunpowder Magazine he views these resolutions as one of the only ways gun owners can defend themselves against the aggressive legislation backed by Democrats who turned the state blue in 2018.
Mace, who is also the Sheriff of Cibola County, says the relationship between the legislators and Sheriffs Association has generally been good, but has begun to strain recently.
“When this legislation is drafted every session, we are not invited to the table,” Sheriff Mace told Gunpowder Magazine. “Our voices are falling on deaf ears. They’re not giving our point of view any attention at all.
“If they’re not going to listen to us, then we are going to use their tactics against them,” Mace said. “I, like the other sheriffs, was elected to protect our citizens’ constitutional rights. And that’s exactly what we plan to do.”
Commissioners in Lincoln County, New Mexico voted in February to make the county a “sanctuary” for gun owners.
“This resolution was highly recommended by our sheriff, Robert Shepperd,” Lincoln County Commissioner Lynn Willard, who voted “yes” to the resolution, told Gunpowder Magazine. “He said this resolution was the best way to show legislators in Santa Fe that it’s better to have common sense gun laws than gun laws that are unenforceable.”
Willard expressed reservation about the resolution using the term “sanctuary” because he thinks the term has morphed to include protection for illegal aliens, similar to resolutions passed in Santa Fe, New Mexico and San Francisco, California.
Instead, he’d like Lincoln County residents to think of the policy as “a resolution that supports our sheriff and our Second Amendment rights.
“I don’t want people thinking they can come to Lincoln County and break the law,” Willard said.
Shepperd and other sheriffs across the state vehemently insist the pending legislation is burdensome to law-abiding gun owners and plainly unconstitutional.
“Our lives are on the line when we do this, we want a seat at the table,” Sheriff Shepperd told Gunpowder Magazine. “We need some type of common-sense legislation, and the legislators are just not listening.”
Lincoln County passed a similar resolution in 2013. The new iteration will supersede the 2013 resolution and mentions that state legislators are not asking for input from the New Mexico Sheriffs Association on their gun control bills.
Aggressive Anti-Gun Lobbying
Fort says there has been an ongoing, extensive lobbying effort by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and billionaire Michael Bloomberg to get more strict gun control laws passed in New Mexico.
“I’ve heard stories of Bloomberg openly calling legislators urging them to pass gun control legislation,” Fort said.
Michael Bloomberg spent $80 million to help elect Democrats nationwide, according to OpenSecrets.org. Most of this money went to the Independence USA Political Action Committee (PAC).
A vast majority of the expenditures from Independence USA went to funding media campaigns for Democratic candidates. OpenSecrets tracked ad data in the state and found that there were 1758 ads run in support of Democratic candidates, over 500 more than those run for Republicans.
The main television channel that showed these ads in New Mexico was KOAT-TV. They showed 168 ads in favor of Gov. Lujan Grisham, who is pushing the aggressive gun control agenda in the state.
“We’re a small state. A million dollars here and there can go a long way,” Fort said.
A Not So Speedy Fight
New Mexico’s state legislature alternates between 30 and 60-day legislative sessions. This year, they are on a 60-day session, and began working on January 16. Since then, a slew of gun control bills have appeared in committees.
Legislators from the state’s more urban counties are creating the momentum behind these measures. Those include Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties.
Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III has publicly stated that he disapproves of the gun control bills, even though he was not one of the sheriffs to sign the letter of disapproval.
“As the Sheriff of the most populated county in New Mexico, I confidently support a Second Amendment sanctuary county,” Gonzales said in a statement provided to KOB Albuquerque. “I believe there are enough laws on the books to effectively deal with the unlawful possession and use of firearms by any kind of perpetrator.”
Passing the Second Amendment Sanctuary Resolutions is a task for county commissioners. But this is the most effective way to show the legislators in Santa Fe that the public disapproves of the legislative agenda, Fort argues.
“We’re urging people to talk to their state legislatures first. But, if that doesn’t work, go local. Talk to your county commissioners and get them to pass the resolution. The people in Santa Fe can’t ignore what’s happening in their counties,” Fort said.
New Mexico Sheriff’s Association
February 5, 2019
The New Mexico Sheriffs Association recognizes that the firearm has a strong heritage in our nation; a legacy where the founding fathers of the republic were patriots with firearms in their hands fighting against tyranny for the freedom and liberty they were denied. Upon their victory, they formed a new government to protect their hard fought achievement. In the framing of this government, they drafted amendments to protect their rights. Thus was born the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. It is an amendment that has often been challenged and interpreted by the highest court of the land and to this day stands as an individual right for each law abiding citizen to keep and bear arms.
Today firearms have an important role in arming law-enforcement and the military for protection of citizens and for preserving our individual rights and freedoms, as well as a role for law-abiding citizens who may freely choose to arm themselves as collectors to hunt, compete in shooting sports, participate in recreational shooting or personal and home defense. Should it become necessary, the citizens will be armed to stand and protect the republic once again as the original framers of the constitution intended.
The Sheriff is elected by the people within a sovereign state and county to protect and serve all people within the county at the time of assuming the Office. The Sheriff swears a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States as well as the Constitution and laws of the State of New Mexico.
29 out of the 33 New Mexico Sheriffs agree that the rush to react to the violence by proposing controls on guns is ill conceived and is truly a distraction to the real problems proliferating violence in our counties and our state. We oppose Senate Bill 8 as it stands this bill does nothing to protect citizens and is unenforceable. We also oppose House Bill 83 as it violates due process and puts law enforcement in a more dangerous situation and does nothing to protect citizens. This bill could disarm the very people trying to defend their lives and personal property.
Furthermore there are already provisions in state law that allow law enforcement to deal with people in crisis. We oppose House Bill 87 as it duplicates a law already deemed enforceable by a court order from a District Judge. We oppose House Bill 130 as there is already provision in state law that allow law enforcement to charge the appropriate crime if a child gains access to a firearm.
The Sheriffs stand to encourage the full and complete enforcement of existing gun regulations and to oppose any executive order or laws that further restrict the rights of law-abiding people to own possess keep and use firearms. As duly elected sheriffs, we are committed to take the lead role in facilitating the discussions in our communities and pledge to collaborate at all levels with those stakeholders to identify and work towards solutions for the complex issue of violence.
Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace, New Mexico Sheriffs Association Chairman
Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton
Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage
McKinley County Sheriff Ron Silversmith
Curry County Sheriff Wesley Waller
Chavez County Sheriff Mike Harrington
De Baca County Sheriff Robert Roybal
Guadalupe County Sheriff Lorenzo Mata
Lincoln County Sheriff Robert Shepperd
Otero County Sheriff David Black
Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan
Sandoval County Sheriff Jesse Casaus
Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton
Union County Sheriff James Lobb
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe
Catron County Sheriff Ian Fletcher
San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari
Socorro County Sheriff William Armijo
Hildago County Sheriff Warren Walters
Colfax County Sheriff Leonard Baca
Grant County Sheriff Frank Gomez
Harding County Sheriff Ray Gutierrez
Luna County Sheriff Kelly Gannaway
Quay County Sheriff Russell Shafer
Roosevelt County Sheriff Malin Parker
San Miguel County Sheriff Christopher Lopez
Torrance County Sheriff Martin Rivera
Valencia County Sheriff Denise Vigil
Mora County Sheriff Amos Espinoza
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him with tips or comments at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com or on Twitter @Davisonthebeat.