New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced on Wednesday that he wants the Legislature to strengthen the state’s anti-gun red flag law, citing an incident near a Santa Fe elementary school. The incident involved a man near César Chávez Elementary School who was seen wearing camouflage clothing, a bulletproof vest, and carrying multiple magazines of ammunition.
Torrez highlighted the response of the Santa Fe Police Department to the potential threat, emphasizing the man’s concerning history of shooting people with BB guns, depression, drug use, and a strong dislike for law enforcement. Despite attempts to obtain an extreme risk firearm protection order from the First Judicial District Court, the request was initially granted temporarily but later denied by District Judge Sylvia LaMar. The judge ruled that the petition failed to meet statutory requirements because the reporting party was a law enforcement officer and not a family member or close associate.
The red flag law, established in 2020, aims to identify mentally unstable individuals who own firearms and may pose a risk to themselves or others. However, the debate revolves around the language concerning who can be a reporting party and petition the court for a protection order. Torrez criticized the interpretation discrepancies among district judges despite an opinion issued by the Attorney General’s Office in 2021, clarifying that law enforcement officials can act as reporting parties.
Torrez’s office has filed a petition with the New Mexico Court of Appeals to overturn the District Court’s ruling. He emphasized the importance of addressing gaps in the law to prevent future tragedies, pointing to the need for law enforcement officials to be proactive in reporting potential threats.
In response to the incident and the challenges faced in the legal process, lawmakers, including Democrat Rep. Joy Garratt, plan to introduce revisions to the law during the upcoming legislative session in January. Garratt emphasized the value of police officers as reporting parties and the intention to include an emergency clause in the law to address immediacy.
Torrez outlined a plan for training law enforcement officials to be proactive in reporting individuals, eliminating the 48-hour waiting period for voluntary firearm removal from dangerous individuals, and mandating courts to notify law enforcement when someone with firearms is involuntarily committed or deemed unfit for trial due to mental incompetence.
While Torrez claimed there is urgency in closing supposed gaps in the law, the initial “red flag” legislation and any subsequent changes are an infringement upon constitutional rights to due process.
Previously, Torrez refused to defend Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s unconstitutional order banning all gun possession in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, calling it “unconstitutional,” but now supports strengthening unconstitutional proposals to usurp New Mexicans’ constitutional rights.