ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham vowed Wednesday to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to address New Mexico’s crime problems, a situation she called untenable.
The state’s largest city has had record-breaking homicides for years, and some residents in Albuquerque and elsewhere have complained that they don’t feel safe in their communities. Retail crime has also increased, with businesses losing millions of dollars to piracy.
Pointing to the recent mass shootings in California and earlier shootings in New Mexico, Lujan Grisham said no one should be afraid to send their children to school or to go to work. She did not specifically mention the recent car shootings targeting the homes of Democratic politicians in Albuquerque.
The governor, who is beginning her second term, was flanked by state lawmakers and law enforcement officials during a news conference at the state Capitol as she outlined her public safety priorities.
“We are building a short and long-term public safety investment strategy in this state,” she said. “This will challenge each and every one of us every day in many ways. And we will work together to get as many of the best ideas up here as possible.”
Her comments came just days after a judge ordered Solomon Peña to be held without bail pending trial for allegedly orchestrating a series of shootings at the homes of four Democratic officials after an unsuccessful bid by the GOP in November for the State House had made. A political newcomer, Peña has a criminal history that includes convictions for burglary and larceny.
No one was injured in the shooting, but the case has reignited the debate over pre-trial detention.
Gun control legislation will be among the most debated, with Democratic lawmakers calling for harsh penalties for parents and others who drop guns into the hands of children. Just last week, in her state of the state address, the governor also called for a ban on the sale of assault weapons — without defining which weapons would be covered — and legislation that would allow victims of gun violence to file civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers.
Republican lawmakers have called for caution in not passing legislation that would violate the New Mexico Constitution, which is more comprehensive than the US Constitution regarding the right to bear arms.
Ryan Lane, leader of the House Minorities, said other GOP lawmakers are focused on legislation aimed at deterring felons from buying firearms, ensuring career criminals are not released early, and targeting retail crime and other schemes that Funding crime syndicates.
“It’s an all-mans-on-deck approach,” he said. “This is an area where I think we seriously need to say, ‘Put politics aside, let’s evaluate every idea, every proposal. If fixing a problem is a good idea, let us do it.”
Joseph Cervantes, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said one of the jobs of the Legislature will be to review laws already passed to see if they’re working. He said the solution isn’t always passing more legislation.
An attempt to tighten requirements for the pre-trial release of people charged with violent crimes failed last year, despite rising public discontent with what was perceived as a “revolving door” in the criminal justice system.
Sen. Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat, is backing a bill that would apply “a better filter” to determine which defendants are the most dangerous and should remain behind bars pending trial. She said defendants charged with murder, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child and crimes committed with a firearm would be on the list.
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