Changes to Red Flag law advance

By Gavin Moughan

State lawmakers have advanced a bill that would make it easier to take guns away from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

New Mexico’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law allows law enforcement to take guns away from someone if a district court finds probable cause the gun owner is in “significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others.”

The proposal, HB 27, would add healthcare workers to the list of people who can request an “extreme risk protection order.” It is sponsored by four female Democratic representatives and broadly opposed by Republicans.

“Mental and behavioral health often presents itself in emergency rooms, urgent cares and hospitals, and those health care providers are often very well equipped to identify …when somebody is a threat to the community,” said Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico.

The current process for the red flag law. Courtesy NM Attorney General’s Office.

But some Republicans questioned the idea of adding healthcare workers.

“There are some doctors who just don’t like guns, so how do we make sure it’s not just a personal bias by a doctor who would say that everyone shouldn’t have one,” asked Senate Minority Leader Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho.

But the opinion of one doctor isn’t all it takes to persuade a court. The current law requires evidence of potential harm and the petition form includes a list of factors such as recent threats of violence, a history of violence, previous arrests and convictions.

The bill would also also expedite the process by requiring that those subject to the order turn over their guns immediately, instead of within the current 48-hour window.

Tara Mica of the National Rifle Association said she opposed that change, which supporters argue is necessary to protect family members and gun owners who are in danger of committing suicide.

The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 29 and now awaits a vote on the House floor.