New domestic violence gun law aimed at protecting victims falls short

On Special Assignment

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A new state law to protect domestic violence victims went into effect July 1. It is designed to take away weapons of people accused of domestic violence or people with a restraining order against them.

KRQE News 13 wanted to know many guns have been taken away since the law went into effect, but found that this new law has no teeth to it.

“She used to show up at my work, she was stalking me for a while,” said a domestic violence victim.

He said they briefly dated and he was trying to end it kindly. Then, he said it led to violence, punches to the stomach and the ribs.

“She’s been in and out of jail like eight times,” said the victim.

And finally, the death threats. For the victim’s protection, KRQE News 13 is hiding his identity.

“That’s when she said, ‘You can’t tell me what to do, I’ll kill you, you ain’t s***,’ all this and that,” said the victim.

He said she went to extremes to try and see him.

“She started crawling through my doggy door and stuff like that real late at night,” said the victim.

He went to get a restraining order. While filling out the paperwork on July 17, one question stood out: Does the abuser have a firearm?

That question was added 16 days earlier. It was part of new gun control legislation in New Mexico that went into effect in July. It states if a person is charged with domestic violence or has a restraining order against them, and the domestic violence victim can prove to a judge their life is in danger, a judge can tell the suspect to temporarily give up their guns.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic State Senator Joseph Cervantes.

“So the goal here is to make sure judges make the right inquiries,” said Senator Cervantes. “When you have a case of domestic violence make the right inquiries of the individuals involved and make sure we take guns out of the mix.”

News 13 wanted to know how many times a victim has asked a judge to take away someone’s gun.

Nine-one people have filed motions under this new law that took effect on July 1. Judges found that in every case there was a reasonable threat, yet only 14 people had to give up their guns.

Why? To get the answer, let’s return to the man trying to get away from an ex-girlfriend.

“What kind of gun did she have?” asked KRQE News 13.

“A handgun, a semi-automatic handgun,” responded the victim.

Back in court, the woman told the judge she didn’t own or have a gun.

Evidently, there seems to be a loophole in this new state law. Judges can only ask if a person has a gun, but the law does not give the judge the authority to order a search to determine if someone owns or has access to a weapon.

This new law is dependent upon the honor code, which means someone accused of stalking, abusing or injuring someone is expected to be honest with the judge.

“I was like, ‘Well, that’s bull s*** because I saw it in her car,” said the victim.

He said she lied to the judge. Now, he’s even more worried about retaliation.

“Just the fact that she’s threatening to kill me and she has a gun was enough, but it wasn’t,” said the victim. “Why would they not search her house for a gun?”

News 13 took the concerns back to Sen. Cervantes, who said he would consider making amendments to this new law to make sure there could be some sort of truth-finding measure after a suspect claims they don’t have a gun.

The senator also added that if people are lying about this, they could face perjury charges as well as federal gun possession charges.

“The point of the law is to make sure it’s not some honor code and the law has some consequences when the individuals fail to comply with the law,” said Sen. Cervantes. “So it’s up to the courts to make the inquiry and be persuaded, and we need to make sure the courts have the resources to do that. This takes time, it takes money, it takes personnel.”

Only two people in Bernalillo County have tried to get guns out of the abuser’s hands using this new law, despite having the highest number of domestic violence cases in the state.

KRQE News 13 reached out to Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torres’ office to see if the loophole is why they are not using the new law, but they repeatedly declined requests for an interview.

The victim who News 13 spoke with said he’s not sure he would’ve asked the judge for his ex to give up her gun if he knew she could just lie and get away with it.

“She doesn’t need to have it,” said the victim. “I’m scared and she’s threatening to kill me. I’m surprised and nobody went and was like, ‘Oh, maybe we should check her f***ing house.’ I thought it was a given, I thought they were going to do that.”

The victim is one of two Bernalillo County cases where the suspect claims they don’t have a gun.

So which county has the most cases of people giving up their guns? Here’s a breakdown:

County Declaration of non-relinquishment Firearm relinquishment receipt
Bernalillo 2 0
Chaves 13 2
Cibola 3 4
Dona Ana 1 0
Eddy 0 1
Lincoln 1 1
Otero 1 0
Rio Arriba 8 2
San Juan 3 0
Sandoval 17 1
Santa Fe 20 2
Taos 1 0
Valencia 21 1
TOTAL 91 14

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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