Cibola County, New Mexico Sheriff Tony Mace says he and other sheriffs from around the state are meeting with attorneys this week as they get ready to file suit over the state’s new red flag law, signed last week by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
During the signing ceremony, Grisham said that sheriffs who weren’t prepared to enforce the new law should resign, but Sheriff Mace and other sheriffs are taking the matter to court instead. Mace tells me that the sheriffs will be holding meetings with several different attorneys over the next few weeks to discuss litigation strategies before filing suit to block the law from taking effect.
Mace believes the new law infringes on the rights of residents in New Mexico, and not just their right to keep and bear arms. He says the law establishes a bizarre “civil search warrant” process that violates the Fourth Amendment, and the seizure of firearms of those who’ve not been accused of a crime, much less convicted of one, is also a violation of the Fifth Amendment’s taking clause.
In addition to the constitutional issues at stake, there’s also the pragmatic argument against red flag laws. As Sheriff Mace points out, when someone has been deemed by a court (in a one-sided hearing) to be a danger to themselves or others, the law gives the individual in question 48 hours to turn over their guns. Seems kind of odd to give a dangerous person two entire days to do dangerous things, does it not? And of course, once the firearms are seized, the dangerous person is left to their own devices. Their knives aren’t confiscated. Neither are their car keys. It’s only the guns that are taken away under a red flag law. The dangerous person is left behind, without any mental health treatment at all.
Mace poignantly describes the current crisis in mental health in New Mexico, where he and deputies have to drive 100 miles in order to find the nearest inpatient treatment facility. If that facility has no open beds, individuals in crisis are often housed in the county jail, instead of in an institution where they could actually receive help. Red flag laws are a cheap way for politicians to say they’re “doing something” about mental health, when all they’re actually doing is stripping people of their constitutional rights and offering up a soundbite solution to a deadly serious problem.
In addition to my interview with Sheriff Mace, we also have the story of a young felon facing up to five years in prison for an Ohio shooting, a home invasion in Katy, Texas that ended with the home invader in the hospital, and an officer in South Carolina who was in the right place at the right time to help a young man in a moment of need.
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