Two Cabinet secretaries, two sheriffs, the state police chief, the New Mexico attorney general and lawmakers from both parties will descend upon the Capitol on Wednesday for the governor’s domestic terrorism summit.
They’ll hear from a number of experts and then discuss efforts to prevent mass violence in New Mexico after the shooting that killed 22 people earlier this month at a Walmart in El Paso.
“I want data that gets to us in a more meaningful way, so we can make decisions that are in the best interest of the state and keeping New Mexicans safe,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said ahead of the gathering. “What are our risks here, and what are we doing about it?”
Experts scheduled to speak include representatives of the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Santa Fe Institute and local law enforcement.
Potential topics include boosting the state’s ability to identify hate groups, beefing up data sharing among law enforcement agencies and improving behavioral health interventions for high-risk youth, the governor said.
“I’m not satisfied today that the way in which we share data between law enforcement is very meaningful,” Lujan Grisham said. “We’re so jurisdictionally focused and we’ve made narrow decisions as policymakers in the past. I don’t think it lends itself to really getting a statewide picture about our risks, and I want that fixed in short order.”
The governor, who announced the summit days after the El Paso shooting, said she didn’t yet know whether these types of initiatives would require policy changes or are a matter of how the budget is allocated.
She also wasn’t sure whether she would support a proposal to create a counterterrorism unit. That would depend on what the experts say Wednesday.
House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said last week he wanted a special legislative session in order to consider appropriating money to create a counterterrorism unit within the New Mexico Department of Public Safety. Lujan Grisham’s office later tamped down calls for a special session.
Both sheriffs and gun safety advocates say they expect firearms to be a topic at Wednesday’s summit.
Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, said she hopes participants will look into the possibility of banning assault weapons.
Viscoli said her organization wasn’t invited to the summit. Representatives for New Mexico Moms Demand Action and Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence also said they were not asked to attend.
San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari, who planned to attend, said he hoped it wouldn’t be a venue to promote controversial gun legislation that wasn’t approved in the last session, such as a bill that would allow “extreme risk protection orders.”
That bill, which proposed to allow police a means of getting a court order to remove guns from people considered dangerous, was passed by the House in the last legislative session but wasn’t taken up in the Senate. Lujan Grisham has said she expects it to pass in the next session.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe, who also is attending, said he hopes the summit will focus on preparedness and prevention issues, such as establishing hotlines for suspicious activity, rather than on gun legislation.
While the two sheriffs plan to attend, the chairman of the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association said Tuesday he was disappointed his organization did not receive an official invitation.
“This is what we see a lot of,” said Tony Mace, who is Cibola County sheriff. “The Governor’s Office will circumvent the association by going through Jerry.”
Hogrefe, whom Mace was referring to, said he was invited directly by the Governor’s Office on Monday.
Mace said Lujan Grisham’s office tends to directly invite sheriffs who are more amenable to the governor’s proposals, rather than contacting the leadership of the association, whose chairman has opposed key gun initiatives endorsed by the governor.
“Stack your committees with supporters so they run smoother,” Mace said. “I think it’s agenda driven.”
Numerous county sheriffs opposed a law passed this year that expanded background checks to nearly all private gun sales, and at least 26 county commissions approved so-called Second Amendment sanctuary ordinances in opposition.
The Governor’s Office refuted Mace’s comments Tuesday and said Hogrefe had been invited because he has “direct experience in the matter of domestic terrorism.”
“The Governor’s Office could not have less interest in efforts to inject partisan politics into a summit about domestic terrorism and public safety,” spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said. “When inviting someone somewhere, I don’t typically add the extra step of making sure it’s all right with the Sheriff’s Association despite my abundant respect for their work.”