Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill into law Thursday that aims to ensure people convicted of domestic violence or subject to a protective order in a domestic abuse case are not in possession of a weapon.
That legislation, Senate Bill 328, requires a convicted offender or person facing a civil court order to stay away from a family member, household member or dating partner to relinquish all firearms to law enforcement officials.
One of the bill’s amendments leaves it to a judge to make a determination if the person subject to the protective order poses a credible threat. Those found to be a credible threat will have 48 hours to relinquish any weapon, be it a gun or a “destructive” device like a bomb, according to the bill.
“This bill will take guns away from a domestic abuser at the most critical time,” said Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, one of three Democratic sponsors of the bill. “I really believe that this is going to save lives.”
She cited national studies, including a 2018 report from the National Partnership for Women and Families, that say women are five times more likely to be killed during a domestic violence situation when a gun is present. The National Partnership for Women and Families also says about 4.5 million women reported that an intimate partner had threatened them with a gun.
Still, critics including Republican lawmakers and some law enforcement officials who spoke against the bill during this year’s 60-day legislative session said it could violate Second Amendment rights.
They also said it might be difficult for officials to enforce the law and store weapons relinquished in domestic violence cases. For example, the bill’s fiscal impact report said that there were 7,000 domestic violence cases filed in New Mexico in 2017, though not all of them resulted in a protective order.
As a result, the legislative report said, the number of weapons police might have to take charge of could be “significant.”
But the bill’s passage into law is a victory for gun control advocates who pushed for the legislation.
“It’s incredible news,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett Macias, who served as the policy and legal adviser for the bill for the nonprofit New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, which led the effort.
“It adds extra protections to keep victims of domestic violence — and their families and children — safe from offenders,” Padgett Macias said.
This is the second of two gun control bills the governor signed into law. The other, SB 8, requires almost anyone who buys a gun in New Mexico to undergo a federal background check.
Republican lawmakers in the House responded to passage of SB 8 by submitting a draft petition to the Secretary of State’s Office that seeks to give voters a chance to decide whether to repeal the measure. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver in March denied approval of the petition, saying the state’s referendum process does not apply to “laws providing for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety.”
But earlier this week, House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, resubmitted the draft, arguing SB 8 does not include language regarding “public peace, health or safety” and that the secretary of state should reconsider the matter.
On Thursday, Townsend said House leaders might see if the referendum process applies to SB 328 as well. “But my intention at this point is to complete my task with Senate Bill 8,” he said.
“We may have to have a judge help us to make that decision,” he said. “If that’s what we need to do, so be it.”
On Thursday, the governor signed several other pieces of legislation, including:
• SB 3, which updates the state’s campaign finance reporting laws for state legislators.
• SB 85, which extends the state’s minimum wage law to domestic workers, such as house cleaners, nannies and home care workers.
• House Bill 89, which requires health insurance providers to include contraception in patients’ plans.