This legislative session, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has made the passage of an extreme-risk protection order, House Bill 7 and Senate Bill 5, a priority.
This lifesaving legislation would allow families and law enforcement to petition to the courts to remove firearms from individuals who pose a threat to themselves and others.
It is worth a moment to reflect whether you have known an individual at some time in your life who, at least for some period of time, was not in a state of mind that would have been safe for them to be in possession of a firearm. These laws are a proven and effective way of intervening before tragedy strikes.
In terms of suicide prevention, extreme-risk protection order laws are a proven game changer. One study by professor Jeffrey Swanson at Duke University found that in the first 14 years of Connecticut’s extreme-risk law, of the 732 risk warrants issued with suicide being listed as a concern, 99 percent found firearms. The study estimated that for every 10 to 20 risk warrants issued, one life was saved.
In addition, the passage of Extreme Risk Protection Order laws provides a path to treatment and resources. In Connecticut, nearly one-third of the people identified received mental health and substance abuse treatment after intervention.
New Mexico has the fourth-highest rate of suicide in the country, with the majority of those deaths resulting from a firearm. The passage of HB 7 and SB 5 would empower families to intervene before losing a loved one to a suicide by firearm.
Extreme-risk laws also could potentially prevent mass shootings because people who may be at a high risk of dangerous behaviors often have access to firearms.
In Florida, the family that housed the Parkland shooter who killed 17 and injured 17 others was extremely concerned one month before the shooting that the shooter had firearms. After the Parkland shooting, Florida passed an extreme-risk protection order law with bipartisan support. To date, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed ERPO laws.
Some New Mexico sheriffs and the National Rifle Association are fighting to stop the passage of this lifesaving legislation. Their bogus claim that there is not due process is fundamentally flawed.
Family members and law enforcement are required to petition the courts to have any gun temporarily removed. If the judge does not deem a person to be a credible threat, the gun(s) are not removed. In Colorado, that is exactly what happened, demonstrating that there are ample protections to avoid improper use of the law.
Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace, who seems to be leading the charge to stop passage of this legislation, went on local news to say that the passage would put law enforcement at risk because they would have to confiscate guns from “dangerous” individuals. Not only is he admitting that these individuals pose a threat to themselves and others, he seems to be forgetting that it is the duty of law enforcement to keep our communities safe from gun violence.
New Mexico has some of the worst gun violence in the country. On average, for every two firearm deaths in the United States, there are now three in New Mexico. Every year since 2005 in New Mexico, there were more violent deaths caused by guns than by hanging, drugs and knives combined. In 2018, New Mexico experienced its most violent year of firearm deaths in more than a century with a 6 percent rise in deaths.
Passage of this bill could change the trajectory of gun violence in our state.