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Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A slim majority of adults in New Mexico support a red flag law that would allow for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others, according to a Journal Poll.
The telephone survey found that 52% of adults support the law and 37% are opposed.
The rest had mixed feelings, said it depends or wouldn’t say.
The poll showed strikingly different support levels among men and women and by party affiliation.
Support for the firearms proposal was 63% among women and 64% among Democrats.
Just 41% of men and 30% of Republicans supported the bill.
“We found that gender was a very large predictor of people’s support levels for the red flag laws,” said Brian Sanderoff of Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the survey.
The Journal Poll also shows substantial geographic variation – with support highest in the Albuquerque area and north-central New Mexico, including Santa Fe.
Attitudes were more divided on the east side of the state and in the northwest, where more adults opposed the bill than supported it.
“The Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas are strongly behind it,” Sanderoff said. “The two rural, conservative areas are slightly against it, and the Las Cruces area is somewhere in between.”
Add it all up, he said, and a “slim majority” of adults favor the legislation.
The firearms bill is at the center of one of the most emotional debates of the 2020 session. Through tears, supporters have shared stories of relatives who died by suicide, and opponents have testified about surviving domestic abuse and the safety provided by a firearm.
Both sides are expecting a close vote when the bill is taken up by the full Senate, perhaps as early as Friday.
The legislation, Senate Bill 5, would establish an Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, often called a red flag law.
The proposal would allow law enforcement officers – acting on information provided by a relative or household member – to seek a court order prohibiting someone from having firearms.
The officer’s decision to file a petition would be based on whether there’s probable cause to believe the individual “poses a significant danger of causing imminent personal injury to self or others.”
A court could order the immediate seizure of the person’s firearms for up to 10 days, until a hearing can be held. After a hearing, the firearms ban could be extended one year.
The legislation is a priority of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s. Thirty of the state’s 33 sheriffs, however, oppose the bill.
The proposal has passed two Senate committees this session and is ready for consideration by the full Senate. If approved there, it will move to the House, where similar legislation was passed last year.
The Journal Poll found significant differences in support for the bill among men and women.
Support was 63% among women, with just 26% opposed.
Among men, 47% were opposed and 41% in favor.
Registered voters were about as likely as the broader adult population to support the bill.
Support for the bill among Democrats was 64%, and 60% of Republicans opposed it.
Independent voters – or those affiliated with a minor party – had support levels roughly in line with the broader adult population, with 50% in favor and 37% opposed.
Adults in the Albuquerque area were more likely to support the law than people in the state overall. Support was 57% in the Albuquerque area, or about twice the level of opposition.
Opposition to the bill ran higher on the east side of the state, near Texas, where 49% of those surveyed opposed the law and 45% supported it. In northwestern New Mexico – including Farmington and parts of the Navajo Nation – opposition was 49%, with support at 43%.
“Although the adults in the conservative rural counties are less supportive of the red flag legislation,” Sanderoff said, “they are divided on the issue.”
Here’s how the question was asked:
“The New Mexico Legislature is considering a bill known as a Red Flag Law. This law will allow enforcement officers to temporarily remove guns from people who have been found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others.
“Supporters say this bill would reduce gun violence including suicides and lessen the risk of shootings, while opponents say it would deny people their due process and their constitutional right to bear arms, without having committed a crime.
“Do you support or oppose this Red Flag Law?”
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 515 New Mexico adults that is representative of the age, gender, race and geographical region of the state’s adult population.
The poll was conducted from Jan. 31 through Feb. 4. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.
Both cellphone numbers (75%) and landlines (25%) of New Mexico adults were used.
Journal Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Boyd contributed to this article.