New Mexico's new gun laws under scrutiny as violent crime continues to rise

(AP Photo/Mary Hudetz, File)

Every time a politician offers up a new gun control bill we’re told that it’s going to make us safer. Less violent crime, fewer suicides, a reduction in accidental shootings; all can be achieved if we only pass whatever restriction the gun control lobby has labeled a “commonsense” and “reasonable” step.

In New Mexico that argument has been used to put several new gun control laws in place over the past few years, from “universal background checks” to a “red flag” law to banning guns from the state capitol building. All the while, however, violent crime has continued to increase across the state, and now some gun control advocates are on the defensive in trying to explain why all of their efforts haven’t achieved any of their promised results. See if their excuses sound familiar.

But more law enforcement training and better data-sharing efforts are needed to make the laws effective, backers said during a Tuesday legislative hearing at the Roundhouse.

“What we have to worry about is getting officers to understand this, because right now they don’t,” said Sheila Lewis, who does training on the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order Act for law enforcement officers and other front-line workers around New Mexico.

The state’s “red flag” law has been used nine times over the past two years, but that probably has less to do with police being unfamiliar with the law and more to do with opposition to the law itself from many police and sheriffs departments. The New Mexico State Sheriffs Association opposed the Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation when it was introduced, and one sheriff told lawmakers this week that the new mandates ignore reality.

For instance, Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton told lawmakers Tuesday that law enforcement officials are hampered in enforcing the state’s background check requirement for gun purchases by delays and blocked records on two different databases.

He also said additional law enforcement training requirements mandated in a law passed this year are difficult for rural law enforcement agencies who deal with staffing issues.

“We need to make sure the something we do is going to be effective and is actually going to address the situation,” Hamilton told members of the legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee.

A focus on violent criminals instead of legal gun owners would be a good place to start, but the Democrats in charge in New Mexico have little appetite to do anything like that. Instead, their claiming that the real problem is they haven’t done enough to crack down on citizens exercising their right to keep and bear arms.

Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, the chairman of the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, described himself as a longtime gun owner but said it’s clear laws restricting or limiting firearm purchases can lead to reduced violence.

“We know it works, if it’s taken far enough,” said Cervantes, citing Australia’s sweeping 1996 gun control law that was followed by a 60% decrease in gun homicide.

Oh, so all we need to do is confiscate millions of firearms from law-abiding citizens and then we’ll be safe? Can’t wait to see Cervantes make that pitch when the next legislative session kicks off in January, and I hope that every Republican running for state representative brings up Cervantes’ comments on the campaign trail between now and Election Day.

Not only is Cervantes calling for gun confiscation, he’s wrong about the effectiveness of Australia’s sweeping gun ban. Homicides were already trending down in Australia long before the ban and confiscation efforts took effect, and while it continued to drop for several years afterwards the number of homicides have been increasing again in recent years.

Gun control activists in Australia haven’t declared success either. In fact, they’re calling for a ban on semi-automatic handguns and bemoaning the fact that gun ownership rates are actually increasing across the country. Their goal isn’t to “control” firearms, but to eradicate gun ownership entirely.

I don’t really care that Cervantes describes himself as a “longtime gun owner” as long as he’s touting gun confiscation as the answer to the failure of New Mexico’s gun control laws. I hope New Mexico gun owners are paying attention, and will turn out to reject this prohibitionist agenda on Election Day.