I run across so many editorials and op-eds that parrot the standard talking points of the gun control lobby that I generally don’t even bother writing about them, unless they include a particularly stupid point or are chock-full of bad information that needs a correction. But on rare occasions, I stumble upon an editorial that goes against the typical anti-gun bias, and in this case the unsigned editorial by the Albuquerque Journal is worth highlighting.
Albuquerque is ground zero for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s gun control machinations. Back in September the governor tried to suspend the right to bear arms in the city and surrounding Bernalillo County based on her proclamation of a public health emergency due to gun violence, and while a federal judge blocked her edict from being enforced he’s allowed a more narrow restriction banning lawful carry at parks and playgrounds to be enforced… though it’s unclear whether anyone’s actually been cited for violating her mandate.
With the state legislature’s 30-day session fast approaching, Grisham is now calling on lawmakers to approve a state-level version of the semi-auto ban introduced in Congress by New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, while Attorney General Raul Torrez wants legislatures to expand the state’s “red flag” law. The editors of the Journal take a dim view of both of those proposals, as well as Grisham’s notion that the city is suffering from a public health crisis involving guns.
“It’s not a health epidemic, it’s a crime epidemic,” the editors maintain before noting that the rifles that would be prohibited by the semi-auto ban are “rarely used in crimes or even mass shootings”. The editors save most of their ire, however, for the proposal to expand who can file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order, which they correctly argue is all about increasing the number of petitions that are issued. While the editors don’t go so far as to call for the current law’s repeal, they’re certainly not in favor of expanding it.
But research hasn’t really shown a correlation between lowering gun violence — the problem New Mexico is trying to solve — and using red flag laws. In fact, there’s no proof red flag laws actually work to reduce crime, though they are a promising tool for stopping mass shootings.
The New York Times reported in January that a recent six-state study of more than 6,700 ERPO cases found that nearly 10% involved threats to kill at least three people. That’s a pretty wide dragnet to land just 10%, but with mass shootings, stopping one can be considered a victory. The Times points out why such laws work so well for mass shooters. Nearly half of individuals who engaged in mass shootings (48%) leaked their plans in advance to others, including family members, friends, and colleagues, as well as strangers and law enforcement officers.
But the study also found that most individuals who perpetrated mass shootings had a prior criminal record (64.5%) and a history of violence (62.8%), including domestic violence (27.9%).
That doesn’t match up with what we were told about the reason for red flag laws. Proponents said they fill a gap where people without criminal records can’t be touched. Some law enforcement officials had found it difficult to seize guns if a gun owner was not a felon or convicted of domestic violence. But in some cases, such laws aren’t needed at all. For example, it’s already a crime to threaten to use a gun on someone.
The Editorial Board stands firmly against expanding the parties that can report, though we think updates to the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, such as making sure law enforcement officers are well trained in the law, are a good idea. This law in particular must be kept free of abuse. It’s a slippery slope that could lead to ruined lives. As eager as we are to catch bad guys, some protections are needed. Those protections already exist in the U.S. Constitution. They’re known as due process and they’re precisely the thing critics say is lacking from ERPOs.
I encourage you to read the entire editorial for yourself. It may not come out as strongly in support of the Second Amendment as you or I would have written, but it still makes clear that the editors believe targeting legal gun owners is a terrible way to combat violent crime in Albuquerque and the rest of the state, and that alone is worth celebrating given the anti-2A bias that permeates the mainstream media. Kudos to the editors for their thoughtful approach to the issue, and I hope we see more of the same from other media outlets across the state as lawmakers return to Santa Fe in a couple of weeks.