NM Crusaders for Justice call on lawmakers to help reduce teen gun violence
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – On Friday night, a 16-year-old student was shot to death at Atrisco Heritage High School in Albuquerque while he and his friends played with guns.
It got the attention of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who said teen violence is a big part of the focus of her public health order on gun violence.
According to Lujan Grisham, arrests have increased since her public health order went into effect several months ago.
She says more than 200 guns were seized in November alone, and 87 juveniles have been detained for gun-related crimes.
Some gun violence advocates say it’s going to take a lot more time for the streets to catch up with the governor’s data.
A local organization that helps pick up the pieces for some families of homicide victims has a different take on the public health order.
One of the co-founders estimates that 75% of their new members this year have been connected to a crime involving a teenager or child.
They say the legislation has been the group’s biggest battle in the past few years, and they owe it to the hundreds of families they serve to fight the same fight at the Roundhouse in just a few weeks.
Behind every follow on the New Mexico Crusaders for Justice page is a family waiting for answers.
“We have grown tremendously since we first started,” said Sally Sanchez, co-founder of New Mexico Crusaders for Justice.
Sanchez says the group is up to 1,100 members in the metro alone — all affected by gun violence in some way. 2023 brought in some especially heartbreaking cases.
“It’s a lot more children this year than what we’ve seen in the past. Children are always harder,” said Sanchez.
Her mind goes to shooting victims like 5-year-old Galilea Samaniego who was killed in a drive-by shooting in August.
“When I heard that, I just I broke down crying, because I cannot even imagine,” Sanchez said. “I look at Alana. I look at Sidney Wilson. There’s just senseless, senseless ones.”
Multiple teens are accused of murdering Alana Gamboa in her car on the Fourth of July.
Another group of young teens are accused of killing Sydney Wilson weeks later when she approached a group she believed stole her car.
“Just hearing their story, hearing their hearts so broken, it just it brings me back to the day that I found out about my son,” said Sanchez.
She can’t forget the case that sparked the governor’s public health order in the first place — the deadly shooting outside Isotopes Park that killed 11-year-old Froylan Villegas.
For Sanchez, every case brings her back to accountability.
“I understand that juveniles are young, I understand that there can be some rehabilitation. But I think that once that line is crossed, and a life is taken, then that has to be tougher penalties,” Sanchez said. “Although she’s trying by bringing in more officers, and I applaud that, because we do definitely need that, it’s the other part of it. It’s the accountability.”
Questions about teens’ access to guns also keeps Sanchez in the fight for change.
“I don’t understand where does a 14 year old get the money to buy an automatic rifle?” said Sanchez. “Where are they hiding them? Are they taking them into the house? Are they hiding them outside? I mean, I think that the parents need to be a little bit more involved in their teenager’s lives.”
The New Mexico Crusaders For Justice will be heading to the Roundhouse in January for another attempt at legislative change.
“It’s not just about intervention, and it’s not just about rehabilitation. There has to be accountability,” said Sanchez.
The Crusaders are also hosting their annual holiday party for members a week from Monday. They’ve adopted 83 children who have been affected by gun violence this year, and still have about a dozen without gifts.
If you want to help fulfill their wish lists, click here for more information.