NM House Democrats announce proposals to reduce gun violence
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Amid calls from the governor and many in the community, 18 New Mexico House Democrats released a list of proposals Thursday aimed mostly at reducing gun violence, laying out the kind of bills they think the legislature should pass in the next session.
Rep. Moe Maestas, representing District 16 in Bernalillo County, says they’re motivated directly by the record-high number of violent crimes this year in Albuquerque.
The announcement is, in some ways, unusual. It’s early for an agenda release, and this January there will be a shorter session (30 days), which often doesn’t cover much besides the state budget.
“We must have a legislative response even though it’s a governor, 30-day session. Normally you wait until the next 60 days to run your bills. We’re not waiting. We’re putting these ideas on the table, and we’re going to do everything in our power as a citizen legislature to lower the crime rate here in New Mexico,” Maestas said.
Below are the details on the proposals released Thursday, which cover crime prevention, supporting law enforcement, pretrial lock up and penalties.
- Creating the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, in which state lawmakers would study the issues and craft proposals
- Funding for the Crime Reduction Grant Program, which would allow local governments to start their own crime-reduction programs in their communities.
- Funding for more Behavioral health workers
- Expanding community schools and school-based health centers for kids’ physical and mental well-being
- Funding for environment measures such as better street lighting
- Creating a Violence Intervention Program
- Creating a 24/7 youth residential detox and treatment center, a resource which advocates say doesn’t exist in Albuquerque
GUN CONTROL AND SAFETY
- Penalizing gun owners who don’t safely store guns leading to kids accessing them
- Limiting magazine sizes
- Keeping “dangerous criminals” locked up before trial, working with the governor and courts on changes to the pretrial detention system
- Increasing funding for stronger pretrial supervision for the department overseeing GPS ankle monitors
- Extending the statute of limitation and increase penalties for second-degree murder from a possible sentence of 15 years to 18
- Increasing penalties for running illegal “chop shops” to crack down on stolen cars.
- Increase penalties for theft of copper, catalytic converters and other valuable materials
On pretrial detention, these House Democrats are joining the calls for more people accused of violent crimes to be locked up before trial, though any changes would have to come from the courts.
“We can definitely share our opinions. I think everyone agrees, violent criminals should not be let out. If the state has a strong case, they should not be let out prior to trial,” Maestas said.
In one example, Devin Munford was arrested, accused of shooting outside a car, released, and a few months later police say he shot and killed a man.
The group of Democrats also wants better monitoring of GPS ankle bracelets, calling for funding for more workers.
“The culture of that agency needs to change to be more 24/7,” Maestas said.
KOB 4’s reporting shows it’s not. Staff isn’t checking on nights and weekends.
Regarding harsher penalties, these Democrats want an increase to the possible sentence for second degree murder, from 15 years to 18.
There are gun control proposals, including penalizing owners for not safely storing their guns, an idea which has growing support after police say an Albuquerque middle school student shot a classmate last month.
These lawmakers are also joining the governor’s calls for more funding for police departments, including for recruiting and higher pay.
As we’ve reported, there’s a massive influx of cash projected in our state, which may factor into decisions in the legislature.
“The dollar signs are not going to inhibit us. We need to do everything in our power to lower violent crime here in Albuquerque,” Maestas said.
He believes the ideas should have Republican support, but statements sent to KOB 4 Thursday leave that unclear.
House Republican leader Jim Townsend said, “Democrats are finally thinking about fixing the rampant crime problem they created.”
Republican Party of New Mexico Executive Director Kim Skaggs called the proposals “weak” and “vague,” and said the GOP has put forth plenty of proposals.
“They (Democrats) turned their heads and consistently tossed legislation into the trash bin,” Skaggs said.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s specific proposals are expected to come out later this fall.