Alibi V.28 No.39 • Sept 26-Oct 2, 2019 

Council Watch

Gun Reform, Burque Style

Council seeks solutions to violence

City Councilors Peña, Sanchez and Harris
City Councilors Peña, Sanchez and Harris
Eric Williams Photography

Albuquerque City Councilors will soon debate a trio of firearm bills; one to ban firearms at City Council meetings and on all city property, another measure to encourage more responsible gun ownership and one to expand applicable charges for using social media to initiate a threat of mass violence on any public place. The bills, co-filed last week by Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis and Diane Gibson will be assigned to various committees before hitting the full Council for debate sometime later this fall.

Not Here

The first bill would ban firearms on city properties, including City Hall, community centers, parks, libraries and any location the City Council, any city board or commission meets or any location where a councilor is holding a public meeting. The proposed ordinance says that City facilities are often where aggrieved folks file complaints and sometimes don’t get the results they desire.

“No one should be afraid to come in to City Hall to get a permit or to petition their City Councilor,” Councilor Gibson has said. “This law ensures that when emotions run high over a hearing or public debate, guns are not part of the mix.”

The proposed ordinance cites a list of a 13 shootings across the United States that have happened on municipal property. It says that Albuquerque city business was interrupted on two occasions during 2015 and 2016 due to firearms safety concerns. It also says a study published in 2019 by the American Psychological Association found that 53 percent of adults fear a shooting in a public place and 33 percent of adults say a fear of a mass shooting prevents them from going to some public places and events. It also says that the fear of being shot in a public place is more strongly felt by Hispanic adults and that 47 percent of the city’s residents identify as Hispanic or Latinx.

Opponents of the legislation point to the US Constitution’s Second Amendment—and the New Mexico Constitution, which prohibits municipalities from regulating citizens’ right keep and bear arms. According to Councilor Pat Davis, who is a former police officer, it is currently legal for a person to walk into City Council chambers with an AR-15 but illegal for a police officer to stop and question them or ask them why they are carrying a gun until they start shooting. Davis has said that the state Constitution does not preclude communities from passing legislation they say would protect citizens from random gun violence. This would be the first challenge to the state constitution provision of not regulating a citizen’s right to bear arms. “We are tired of waiting on Santa Fe and Washington to step up and do something,” Davis said.

Lock Them Up

A second bill would require gun owners to keep their firearms locked up when not in their immediate possession and control. It will also require a security lock on all guns sold or gifted. The proposed bill says that there were 973 unattended and unsecured firearms stolen from automobiles and residences in Albuquerque in just 11 months during 2017. It goes on to say that an analysis of more than 23,000 stolen firearms recovered by police between 2010 and 2016 found that the majority of these weapons were recovered in connection with crimes, including more than 1,500 violent ones like murder, kidnapping and armed robbery. Statistics show that keeping firearms locked and unloaded with ammunition in a separate location reduce youth suicide and unintentional injury in homes with children and teenagers.

“We aren’t saying you cannot have a gun; be we are saying that if you choose to own a gun, your responsibility doesn’t end when you lay it down and walk away,” Councilor Davis has said.

There are exceptions for shooting sports events, licensed retailers and law enforcement. The penalty if found guilty shall be a fine of not more than $500 or by imprisonment for no longer than than 90 days or both.

Close the Loophole

Back in 2016 the Council passed a law criminalizing promoting or initiating a school shooting. This amendment expands that bill to cover all threats of mass violence against any public or private entity in Albuquerque. Councilor Davis says this gives police valuable tools to track down threats no matter how they are received.

“In an era where every second counts, this legislation gives Albuquerque Police the ability to investigate and intervene immediately and that makes us all safer in public places,” Davis reported.

Councilor Isaac Benton said his goal is to keep guns out of public meeting and other public spaces where folks go to transact government business. He has said the public’s input would be taken into consideration and the measures will be tweaked.

For more information on the proposed legislation contact your City Councilor and for more Albuquerque crime stats check out: cabq.gov/police/internal-reports/copy_of_annual-reports.

Send your comments about the City Council to carolyn@alibi.com.

The next meeting of the Albuquerque City Council:
Monday, Oct. 7, 5pm
Vincent E. Griego Chambers
Albuquerque Bernalillo County Government Center
1 Civic Plaza
View it on GOV TV 16 or at cabq.gov/govtv.