NEW-MEXICO

New Mexico Democrats seek new gun restrictions, enforcement

Morgan Lee
Associated Press

SANTA FE - Responses from public officials in New Mexico to the killing of 19 children and two teachers by a lone gunman at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, are falling along partisan lines when it comes to proposals to improve public safety and regulating access to guns.

Democratic candidates for the state's top law enforcement job say New Mexico needs new gun control legislation, more enforcement resources for gun safety, or both. A top Republican Party official said Thursday that gun control is not the right answer.

In a Wednesday night debate, state auditor and Democratic candidate for attorney general Brian Colón said he supports legislation to ensure safe gun storage proposed by legislators including state Rep. Pamelya Herndon of Albuquerque.

A failed bill from Herndon this year would have established gun storage requirements and established new crimes with misdemeanor and felony penalties for recklessly making a firearm available to a minor.

Albuquerque-based District Attorney Raúl Torrez — also seeking the Democratic nomination for attorney general — said law enforcement agencies need greater funding and training to harness New Mexico's 2020 "red flag" law that allows police or sheriff's deputies to ask a court to temporarily take away guns from people who might hurt themselves or others. The legislation was proposed in response a racist attack targeting Hispanics at a Walmart in El Paso that killed 23 people in 2019.

Torrez also said parents who fail to secure firearms from child access need to be held accountable, and that he supports the creation of a gun-violence prevention office within the state Department of Health.

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce on Thursday said that "gun control is not the answer" to school safety concerns.

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"We must provide better security, more police presence, metal detectors, one-point secure entrances and take other appropriate measures to make our schools a safe place for all," Pearce said in a statement.

Since Tuesday's school shooting, Democratic governors and lawmakers across the country have issued impassioned pleas for Congress and their own legislatures to pass gun restrictions. Republicans have mostly called for more efforts to address mental health and to shore up protections at schools, such as adding security guards.

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Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says elected officials should do everything they can to reverse the proliferation of firearms.

"We must do everything in our power to reduce the number of firearms and deadly weapons on our streets to make sure that everyone in this country lives in peace and free of fear," said Lujan Grisham in a statement.

Since 2019, Lujan Grisham has signed a raft of legislation that restricts access to guns, including an extension of background-check requirements to nearly all private gun sales and a ban on firearms possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.

Five Republican candidates are vying for the nomination in New Mexico's June 7 primary for the chance to challenge Lujan Grisham as she runs for a second term.

The Uvalde attack was the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. in nearly a decade.

Law enforcement officers killed the shooter, identified as a local 18-year-old who had shot and wounded his grandmother and spelled out his violent plans in online messages shortly before the massacre at Robb Elementary. Investigators say they don't yet know a motive.

Morgan Lee is a reporter for the Associated Press.

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