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City Council promotes ‘red flag’ law

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s largest city has a new message for state leaders: make it legal to take guns away from those believed to pose an extreme risk.

The Albuquerque City Council on Monday passed a resolution calling on legislators and the governor to enact what is often referred to as a “red flag” law. It would allow authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms from individuals that a court determines represent a significant danger to themselves or others.

The council approved Isaac Benton’s resolution on a 4-2 vote.

Despite the fact that it is a symbolic gesture – the city lacks the authority to set gun laws – Benton said it was important to put the heft of Albuquerque’s voice behind such a proposal.

He based his resolution on a bill that Reps. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, and Joy Garratt, D-Albuquerque, introduced during the 2019 session, but which did not make it through the Senate before the session concluded.

“I think we as a city should carry some weight in the state where we’re way over a quarter of the population,” Benton said in an interview.

But Benton’s resolution did not reflect the will of everyone who filled the council chambers on Monday and contributed to an hourlong public comment period.

The issue divided the crowd, with opponents charging it would violate their constitutional rights. One even pondered aloud that “if the government can take your guns from you without a trial, why can’t it take away your right to vote?”

Supporters, however, called such a measure a way to thwart potential mass shootings, as well as suicides.

“People with antisocial behavior and guns are a danger to police officers and the general public,” said Don Newman. “We need to start to address these issues here before they become our headlines – and they will become our headlines.”

Pat Davis, Diane Gibson and Ken Sanchez voted for the resolution. Trudy Jones and Klarissa Peña opposed it.

Cynthia Borrego, Don Harris and Brad Winter were absent.

Jones said she was uncomfortable signaling city support for a bill that does not yet exist. The Legislature does not convene until January.

“I have no control over what the state of New Mexico – the Legislature – will bring forward (in 2020), will approve and will put on our laps that we have to abide by, and that’s extremely uncomfortable for me,” she said.

But Davis said the city signals its priorities to lawmakers every year and did not see this as markedly different.

“I have no issue with us taking a stand to do the right thing. We do this regularly,” he said.

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