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Seeking safety, New Mexico considers checks on gun sellers

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has suggested that New Mexico keep closer track of hate groups and consider extending background checks on private gun sales to sellers of firearms, as the state grapples with concerns about the Aug. 3 mass shooting in El Paso.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

The first-year Democratic governor is convening a summit of public safety experts today at the state Capitol to come up with precautions against domestic terrorism in response to the El Paso shooting, which killed 22.

State law enforcement officials and leading lawmakers in the Democratic-led state House and Senate were scheduled to meet behind closed doors today for the discussions and a briefing from an FBI representative.

“In these horrific, horrific situations, I’m seeing members of our state and folks around the country talk about background checks that could apply to sellers,” Lujan Grisham said Monday. “Then we can track the movement of firearms.”

The summit is closed to news media because it involves sensitive law enforcement discussions, Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said. “It’s an internal discussion,” he said in an email.

Authorities say the El Paso shooting suspect, who is white, confessed to targeting people of Mexican descent.

New Mexico has the highest percentage of Latino residents in the nation, and Lujan Grisham signaled her concern about the influence of ideologies of white supremacy and racism. “I would expect that we are going to do more to know about our hate groups in the state and what can we do,” she said Monday.

The governor also said she wants to discuss new strategies for responding to youths who exhibit signs of anger.

On gun control, Lujan Grisham said she’ll ask the Legislature to take up proposals in January for “red-flag” legislation that makes it easier to take guns away from people who may be suicidal or bent on violence against others. A red-flag bill won House approval this year, but it never reached the Senate floor.

Several other gun control measures won approval this year in New Mexico, after the departure Jan. 1 of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

More than two dozen sheriffs in predominantly rural areas initially vowed to avoid enforcement of new state gun-control measures, equipped with supportive resolutions from county commissions. Self-described patriot groups have sought to start a petition drive that might put the new background-check requirements to a statewide referendum.

New Mexico also is limiting who can carry firearms on school grounds to trained security personnel and prohibiting people from possessing a firearm if they’re under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.

Lujan Grisham has rejected calls by Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe to convene a special legislative session to consider immediate public safety reforms.

Republicans including state Sen. Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho want to revive vetoed legislation that would make it easier to recruit retired law enforcement officers as school security personnel.

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