Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday she will not abide lack of enforcement by any sheriff or other local government official who opposes a new law intended to reduce gun violence.

Her comments came during a press conference at which she defended her support of Senate Bill 5, which cleared the Legislature on Thursday and which she intends to sign into law, adding New Mexico to the list of states that have passed what are called "red-flag" laws.

The measure would allow authorities to petition courts to temporarily remove firearms from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others.

"If just one life is saved, if one potential [dangerous] situation is averted, then we're doing our job," she told reporters.

Her comments came after news that Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton told people at a Eunice City Hall meeting Monday he would rather go to jail than enforce the law, which he thinks is unconstitutional.

She called such reactions to the legislation simply "emotional responses to not winning."

Law enforcement officials, she said, "swear an oath, and they don't get to be policymakers."

Helton was one of many sheriffs and law enforcement personnel who spoke against the bill as it made its way through this year's 30-day legislative session.

He and other opponents said the bill, which will allow a judge to let officers take away firearms for up to 10 days, will be difficult to enforce and violates both the Second and Fourth amendments of the Constitution. Helton said it removes due process from the equation and won’t work as well as existing statutes that allow law enforcement personnel to immediately respond to someone who is armed.

SB 5 gives people subject to the court proceeding 48 hours to turn in their firearms before police act. 

Proponents say the measure could save lives if law enforcement personnel step in and remove guns from people who are planning to take their own lives or harm others. 

“Are we gonna red flag baseball bats or opioids?” Helton said in response to that notion. 

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 39-31 to approve the bill, sending it to the governor's desk for her signature. She said Friday she will sign it as soon as she gets it. 

A day before the House vote, the Torrance County Commission unanimously passed a resolution opposing the bill, saying it removes "officer discretion" from such situations.

Wayne Johnson, county manager for Torrance County, said Friday the bill is a "litigation lawyer's dream" because it will put sheriffs and police officers in a no-win situation.

If they don't enforce the law, they risk a jail sentence, he said. If they do enforce it and turn out to be wrong, the person they seized the guns from could sue them.

"This puts us in an untenable situation," he said. 

Whether other New Mexico counties, cities or sheriffs will join forces to resist the law, as many did last year by passing resolutions calling themselves "sanctuary" counties where gun rights would be upheld, is unclear. 

At that time, the rejection of gun-control legislation was prompted by passage of Senate Bill 8, which expended background check requirements to cover most gun sales in New Mexico.

Lujan Grisham said Friday she was not sure if there had been any arrests or convictions connected to SB 8, which became law last July. As the anniversary of that law approaches, she said, the state should check with city, county and court officials to find out.

In the interim, she said, New Mexico government leaders do not have the right to ignore the law.

That would be akin to not obeying traffic laws and saying, "I'll drive however I want and nobody can do anything about it," she said. 

"It doesn't work the way," she said. "That's chaos."

She said she expects sheriffs and police officers to "be professional" and do their jobs. 

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General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(13) comments

kyle renfro


kyle renfro

Her comments came after news that Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton told people at a Eunice City Hall meeting Monday he would rather go to jail than enforce the law, which he thinks is unconstitutional.

She called such reactions to the legislation simply “emotional responses to not winning.”

i remember when i was a police officer in Santa Fe investigating an accident on 2500 Cerrillos road in front of the state building and this involved one of Lujans employees who called lujan that she was being investigated as the as causing the accident and MLG ran out to the scene and tried to throw her weight around and boss the scene. She has not changed one bit.

Charles Andreoli

One thing many people don't realize is that Grisham cares very little about the state or its residents . If she did she would not be pushing laws that have very little support of the people. Grishams political aspirations lie far above the state of NM and by pandering to Bloomberg and the DNC she is positioning herself for a spot in the next democrat led administration. When you peal back the facade she is a

leftist/communist at heart and is taking us down the path of failure and destruction.

kyle renfro

you are 100 percent correct as can be seen from her past history. She is trying the Bill Richardson game plan

Charles Andreoli

"Lujan Grisham said Friday she was not sure if there had been any arrests or convictions connected to SB 8, which became law in July. "

The answer is no there has not been any arrests or convictions. And the reason for that is, there is absolutely no way to enforce the law. There is no supporting infrastructure. They knew the law has no teeth when they passed it, but that was not the point. This law was created to provide a place to attach more onerous anti gun laws in the future.

kyle renfro

Yes the lady in red has spoken and you could tell from her interview that she is a 100 percent power control persons who hides behind the mantra of , "our kids and our safety and our future". She talks about sheriffs being professional but behind the scenes calls senators and congressmen and belittles them and demands and threatens. Yet DWI is far more dangerous in this state to the point of a senior senator causing a serious accident and being found guilty. Instead of passing a vehicle forfeiture law like many new mexico cities had and the state supreme court ruled, was too onerous and cities could not remove vehicles as was against the station constitution , she moves to guns as long as she labels it as public safety because just like the private guns sales law, which no one can measure the effects, if you stamp "public safety" them it is almost unchallengeable at the state level.

But what you cant see is that she has her interconnections with other liberals (gov's from other states such as Colorado, California, Washington, and her connections with Washington DC senators and congressional delegates and the likes of Bloomberg, Soros) and they have the same mantra of the more states we can swing the stronger we are and they chip away one state at a time.

Red flag law, if in fact they turn in all their guns and don't leave one or two hidden, is they can enact suicide by cop or other methods of suicide or instead of acting out the emotions first because they know of the red flag law, just commit the act to themselves or others without advanced warning. Even if they were to turn in all their guns, they could go buy another as the federal background check does not reveal the state conditions and would not come out on the federal background check.

As far as the sheriffs confiscating guns, they could simply go to the house and haphazard ask for their guns and with minimal effort , take their word and leave that they had no guns, a toy gun or one gun. They still did their job to CYA and who will question that.

But , like other MLG hairbrained ideas , like free education to a state university that just got censured and paid a coach over 800 k to leave and hired a new one under the same conditions, it all a political game. For instance in the same legislative session you announce "lets get tough on crime" and legalize marijuana at the same time. (Duality of mankind, Jungian) and also lets freeze the COLA of our retires until 75 (by gosh) but give teachers who still work a 5 % Raise.

but all is not well in lujan world and their are significant internal issues, If we refer to the DPS advanced training link which provides all the advanced training to police officers in the state to learn about such laws and stay proficient,

you see that there is no staff. And this is echoed in every other state department.

Dottie Butler

I read the Associated Press story in your newspaper this morning about Florida using its Red Flag law 3,500 times in the 2 years since the Parkland shootings. Some of those stories raised the hair on the back of my neck. If the more conservative state of Florida with a Republican-dominated legislature thinks it's a good idea to have a Red Flag law, then the blue state of New Mexico should certainly have one. It has saved lives in Florida. It will save lives in New Mexico.

Khal Spencer

“If just one life is saved, if one potential [dangerous] situation is averted, we should red flag some of the drivers in Santa Fe"

Aside from that, I hope someone obtains standing to go to court to get an injunction against this law and takes it to appeal. That's the legally solid way for the sheriffs to stand their ground.

Jerry Appel

Totally agree. New Mexico has now joined about 17 other states with similar laws, and I'm sure the NRA can't wait to pounce on this one. As to how it will work, I don't know, but I have been in a jury pool where the state was trying to take custody of children from parents and these parents seemed to be totally useless. I don't know how that one turned out, but from what was presented, I hope the parents lost. If the state can take away your children because you, the parent, are a threat to a child, why not a firearm? Surely these county sheriffs have had to enforce child protection laws, so why the reluctance about firearms? The argument that people will use this law for petty reasons is valid, but is it the majority of the complaints? Same goes for taking children form parents. I agree with the governor on this one, and I'm sure there will be a federal law suit emanating from other states that have had similar laws on the books for several years.

Khal Spencer

These laws are so recent that none have percolated up to the appeals level yet, as far as I know. The fact that a person never convicted of a crime or deemed mentally incompetent is being deprived of a right enumerated in both the Federal and State Constitution on the basis of the lowest standard of proof and without the right to counsel is what to me makes this a target rich environment for lawsuits on due process grounds.

And that is the preferred path. The Sheriffs can assert these laws are unconstitutional but although I tend to agree that they dispose with proper due process, its not their job nor do they have legal standing to make the call. Its the job of the courts.

Indeed, when the Federal Government passed the Brady Bill and demanded that sheriffs administer background checks for the Feds, the sheriffs went to court and won in the U.S. Supreme Court (Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997)). That, by the way, is the legal basis for local government refusing to do the bidding of the Federal immigration folks.

So my wish is that our Federal circuit take this up. At least the ERPO passed in Colorado provides for a public defender. Our representatives were too cheap to do that and it makes a mockery of the Governor's comment that "if it saves one life" it is worth it.

Charles Andreoli

And, how many people have the finances to contest this action when the average attorney charges $250 and hour while the state has unlimited finances to beat you down. Laws like this are a threat to 0ur constitutional rights on so many levels and they will be abused. Count on it.

Khal Spencer

Well, Charles, between the NRA, GOA, SAF, Constitution Society, and others, you would think someone would step up to the plate and represent a client. That's what happened with the DC law that SCOTUS ruled unconstitutional. That client wasn't exactly rolling in greenbacks.

Khal Spencer

District of Columbia v. H-----, 554 U.S. 570 (2008). If I put in the client's last name, the New Mexican word sniffer thinks I am swearing. Sigh.

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