New Mexico's Red Flag Law Rarely Used

One of many problems I have with red flag laws is that once passed, their mere use is held up as justification on how important the laws actually are. There’s no critical examination of just how useful any of those laws, no deeper dig into whether anyone with a red flag law leveled against them took their life or the life of another with alternative means, no delving into whether some of those with red flag laws represented a real threat to anyone or not, nothing.

Proponents of such measures don’t even care.

However, a lack of use for such laws may be pretty suggestive all on their own. After all, if a law exists and isn’t useful, then maybe it’s time to repeal that law, which is exactly what seems to be happening in New Mexico.

A fledgling red-flag gun law aimed at removing firearms from people who pose a danger to themselves or others has been applied just four times across New Mexico since it went into effect in May, records show.

The Administrative Office of the Courts confirmed Tuesday that petitions for extreme risk firearm protection orders had been filed through January in Eddy, Santa Fe, Taos and San Juan counties. Three resulted in one-year court orders for the surrender of firearms — with one order later rescinded.

A similar law in Florida has been used thousands of times since it was enacted in response to a mass shooting in early 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, in which a gunman killed 17 people.

New Mexico’s law is different from Florida’s measure, however, which means trying to compare the two states is apple and oranges.

Honestly, New Mexico should rejoice over the fact that their red flag law hasn’t been needed more than a few times, right?

Well, that’s not how Democrats in the state are approaching it, though.

Democratic legislators are currently proposing changes that would allow police to seek a court order based on their own observations without a recommendation from someone else who witnesses a gun owner in crisis. A hearing was scheduled Tuesday on the new bill.

The problem is, police often don’t know the individuals in question and they’re not mental health professionals. Giving them that authority may well increase the numbers of people with red flag orders leveled against them, sure, but is that really the goal here?

If the purpose is protecting human life, then the first step is to look at whether the current law has helped or hurt. At that point, sure, look at other states and see if their measures helped or hurt. If they don’t help, then there’s absolutely no point to even consider it.

Yet even if they do seem to help, it’s important to remember that you’re taking away someone’s rights without any real due process. A judge who has never seen an individual is deciding whether to strip that individual of their rights based on the word of people who aren’t mental health experts. Innocent people will be caught up in this.

Not that proponents of red flag laws really care..