Editorial: Gun bill good but won’t solve the problem

Posted 3/7/19

Sheriffs in 26 New Mexico counties, including Taos County, have convinced their county commissions to approve so-called Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions. The word “sanctuary” …

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Editorial: Gun bill good but won’t solve the problem

Posted

Sheriffs in 26 New Mexico counties, including Taos County, have convinced their county commissions to approve so-called Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions. The word “sanctuary” doesn’t appear in the local resolution passed Tuesday (March 5) in a 3-2 vote by the Taos County Commission. Still, it serves as a warning to the state Legislature about pending bills these elected leaders believe tread on individual gun rights.

To be sure, there are legitimate arguments being made about gun regulation by both advocates and opponents.

On the federal level, the Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check) bipartisan law signed by the president in 2018 sought to tighten reporting flaws in the existing regulations, and included at least some mental health restrictions on gun purchases.

New Mexico’s lawmakers are now seeking to go a few steps further with proposed bills detailed here in John Miller’s stories.

Ultimately, we believe the one gun regulation sure to be signed into law – Senate Bill 8 – is well thought out, sensible and reasonable. That bill requires a federal background check for all guns sold and transferred except between law enforcement and between immediate family members. And it sets a reasonable fee of $35 per transaction – about the cost of four McDonald’s meals or two good-sized steaks.

But SB 8 is unlikely to address the core issues of gun-linked violence, and it certainly won’t address the plague of mass shootings.

Based on the history of shootings, especially the increased number of mass shootings in the last five years, the law isn’t likely to prevent a future attack. Between 60 and 80 percent of mass shootings, depending on the study, have been carried out by people who legally obtained guns.

Many of these shooters aren’t on law enforcement’s radar before a shooting occurs — neither the teen who shot up a Clovis, New Mexico, library nor the man responsible for the Aztec High School shooting had been in trouble with the law. An FBI report released in 2018 that analyzed 63 mass shootings found most were planned ahead of time and that a combination of stressors – such as lost jobs, bad relationships, isolation, legal troubles – occurred before the attacks. Those same stressors often lead to gun-related violence between friends and family. Little of that is going to show up in a background check.

We hardly need to say it, but gun violence, and gun control, are clearly fraught issues.

These Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions being passed by counties are modeled on a legal premise put forth in the immigrant sanctuary resolutions approved by many New Mexico towns and counties, including the town of Taos and Taos County.

This gun control resolution — pushing back on entirely reasonable but potentially ineffective legislation — is a slippery legal and ethical slope for sheriffs and the governing bodies. The original resolution brought before the commission was whittled down and we think our Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe was right to do two things: remove the “sanctuary” language and stop just shy of saying he won’t enforce gun control laws. Hogrefe and the commission simply make it clear they think the proposed bills before state lawmakers are bad ones that exceed federal gun control limits and violate the Constitution.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has leveled criticisms at the sheriffs for fearmongering and having a “pity party” among themselves. However she feels about it, duly elected commissioners in a majority of New Mexico’s counties approved the resolutions. It’s a move backed by a lot of passionate gun-owning constituents. And they include Democratic commissions like Taos and Río Arriba counties, not just Republican ones.

Of course, this drives home an indisputable reality: Gun rights is not an urban versus rural issue, nor is it a Democrat versus Republican issue. Gun regulation creates strange bedfellows and unexpected fractures among political parties, communities and even families.

Gun culture in America is not going away. It is woven into the violent fabric of our country and how people see both the government (with suspicion) and their sense of security

At the end of the day, these proposed laws at the New Mexico legislature may reduce, but certainly can’t resolve the underlying issues that lead to shootings and other acts of violence in our communities and country. That will take a sea change in American society – how we treat each other, and how we help the most troubled among us.

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