Heal

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FARMINGTON — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and Aztec Police Department Chief Mike Heal met during the senator’s visit to the Four Corners this past week to discuss school safety and security efforts, and potential action.

“I met with a number of students from Aztec a few weeks ago who came back to Washington, D.C.," during national walkout events, Heinrich said during a visit to The Daily Times on Wednesday. “This was an opportunity to hear the law enforcement perspective of having gone through (the Dec. 7 shooting at Aztec High School).”

During the Tuesday meeting, Heinrich said he and Heal discussed “potential red flag legislation, which would allow for law enforcement to deal with folks who had been determined by the court to be a danger, either to themselves or to the community as a whole.”

Heal said the New Mexico Association of Chiefs of Police met on Friday in part to discuss the potential legislation, which would allow law enforcement to request a protection order to seize the firearms of a person identified as a risk to himself or herself or to public safety, and to place that individual on a list that would prevent the purchase of more firearms.

The New Mexico Police Chiefs Association also discussed increasing the penalty for making threats to a school from a misdemeanor charge to a felony, and improving the process for school districts, cities and police departments to add school resource officers to their staff, according to Heal, who is the association’s vice-president.

During their Tuesday meeting, Heal and Heinrich also discussed training opportunities for law enforcement, including local law enforcement agencies working with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, Heinrich said.

Three members of Heal’s department have attended or will attend an active shooter training at the FLETC training center in Artesia. Heal said the group received “leading-edge” training as well as certification to train other officers and departments regarding active shooter response — something that Heinrich said could benefit law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

“One of the things that I’m interested in is the training that (Heal’s) folks have gone through at FLETC and whether we might be able to make sure that law enforcement — broadly, throughout the state — has access to that kind of training so they get the best and latest training for how to respond in an active shooter situation,” Heinrich said.

Heinrich also addressed some concepts or ideas that have come up in the controversial conversation regarding school safety and security in an era when gun violence in schools has taken a national stage.

Though he said armed security guards and school resource officers on campus have become “a reality these days,” Heinrich said he would not advocate for arming teachers.

“At this point I would not be supportive of arming our teachers in an organized, broad-brush sort of way,” Heinrich said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily the right response.”

“We need to do a better job in this country of balancing rights and responsibilities,” Heinrich added. “I think you can fully support people’s access to firearms for sport and hunting and self-defense without everyone needing to own firearms that have 40-round clips. I just think that has contributed to the scale of many of these shootings.”

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

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