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DA Torrez encourages state to expand limits on gun possession

District Attorney Raúl Torrez

District Attorney Raúl Torrez

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — District Attorney Raúl Torrez said his office has found several problems with state laws on gun possession that should be changed.

Torrez, in a letter to Gov. Susana Martinez, said that in the wake of school shootings in New Mexico and elsewhere in the country, his office has examined existing laws and thinks the state should expand the list of people prohibited from possessing firearms, strengthen the mechanism for reporting them to law enforcement and increase the state’s ability to seize firearms used in felonies and violent crimes.

“It is imperative that our political representatives take the lead in a combined effort to protect the public from violent and mentally unstable people,” Torrez said in the letter, which also was sent Friday to Senate and House leaders.

Torrez said New Mexico law only prohibits people who have been convicted of felonies as adults from prohibiting firearms. He said that list also should include people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges or certain violent crimes as juveniles, people who are subject to domestic violence orders of protection and people who have been found incompetent to stand trial.

Torrez pointed out that Nehemiah Griego, who was convicted of killing his parents and three young siblings when he was 15, would be able to own firearms if he is sentenced as a juvenile, a matter currently being litigated.

The governor will leave office at the end of the year.

Michael Lonergan, a spokesman for the governor, said her administration has improved reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used to check if people trying to buy firearms are banned from doing so.

“Governor Martinez has always been a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment – and having been a prosecutor herself for 25 years, knows firsthand the importance of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, including through supporting common-sense gun laws,” he said in a prepared statement.

Michael Patrick, a spokesman for Torrez, said the district attorney wrote the letter to create discussion about the topic.

“We just felt we needed to get the ball rolling,” he said.

Last week, Torrez held a meeting at his office with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to discuss how they can better fight gun crime in Albuquerque.

“As a lifelong gun owner, hunter and concealed carry permit holder, I strongly believe in our constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Torrez said in the letter. “Just as strongly, however, I believe – as most gun owners do – that violent criminals and the mentally unstable should not have ready access to firearms.”