Taos County Commissioners repeal gun control resolution

Motion passes with 3-2 vote

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 3/19/19

The Taos County Board of Commissioners voted at a regular meeting Tuesday (March 19) to repeal a controversial resolution passed earlier in the month that expressed opposition to new gun control …

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Taos County Commissioners repeal gun control resolution

Motion passes with 3-2 vote

Posted

Updated March 25 at 10 a.m.

The Taos County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 this week to repeal a controversial resolution passed earlier in March that expressed opposition to new gun control measures proposed in the state Legislature this year.

In its place, the commission passed a new resolution that commits the county to protecting “the rights of citizens under the Second Amendment while also protecting the rights of citizens to be protected from senseless firearm-related deaths that happen all too frequently in our country,” it reads.

Like the resolution it replaces, it is meant to be an expression by the constituents of Taos County, and does not change how any state or federal law will be enforced.

Unlike the previous two meetings, which both allowed the public to comment before a vote was taken, the commission amended its agenda on Tuesday (March 19) to cast their votes before the public had the opportunity to speak. Board Chair Mark Gallegos said the board chose to alter this standard sequence of business because he felt it would be best not to make the public wait for an outcome “pretty much known” before the meeting was held.

The new resolution was crafted by Commissioner Gabriel Romero, who reversed his position on the prior resolution after voting to approve it two weeks ago. He told a large audience of county residents gathered in the commission chambers Tuesday morning that he had changed his stance after careful reconsideration.

“Never in the last 16 years have I felt like I made the wrong decision until a couple weeks ago, when we voted on the first resolution,” he said, noting that he had not been pressured by anyone into changing his stance.

Romero along with commissioners Jim Fambro and Gallegos had voted to pass the gun rights resolution, which was first proposed in February by Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe. Commissioners Candyce O’Donnell and Tom Blankenhorn voted against it.

The sheriff had modeled the document after a similar resolution passed in 25 other New Mexico counties, where law enforcement and local citizens expressed concern regarding the constitutionality of certain gun control bills debated at this year’s legislative session.

Many of the bills challenged in the Roundhouse this year died before the session ended on Saturday (March 16). Among those that failed to make it into law was House Bill 83, which would have allowed New Mexicans to petition a district court judge to file an “extreme risk” protection order, which could result in the confiscation of any firearms belonging to the accused prior to a first hearing.

HB 130, which reduced the penalties an adult could face for failing to secure a firearm in a home where children were present, also died.

Two controversial bills that sought to expand federal background checks were also killed, including Senate Bill 201, which extended the requirement to private individuals and would have opened the door to assessing a person’s mental health history before sale.

House Bill 35, which would have required federal dealers to pay an annual fine to the state, also didn’t make it.

A gun regulation bill that did pass and was signed by the governor into law was SB 8, which requires federal background checks of all gun sales except between immediate family members, between members of law enforcement, or a sale of a gun to or by someone who already has a federal firearms license.

Like-minded Taos County residents came out to voice their support for the gun rights resolution at two separate commission meetings prior to the March 5 vote that originally passed it. At this week’s meeting, the representation seemed to have skewed the other direction – with a majority voicing support to repeal the gun control resolution.

Romero was joined by O’Donnell and Blankenhorn on Tuesday in a vote to repeal the resolution, while Fambro and Gallegos voted against the repeal.

Fambro and Gallegos both said they had received numerous threats via email from county residents who were upset by their decision to back the original firearms rights resolution.

Fambro said he was told he would be among those responsible for loss of life if a school shooting ever happened in Taos County.

During public comments, which took place following the vote, several constituents who supported the repeal condemned the emails that had been sent to the commissioners.

Sheriff Hogrefe entered the chambers during public comments. He was dismayed at the board’s decision, but said the new resolution was not a complete reversal of what he had originally proposed.

“Today’s move was very disappointing,” Sheriff Hogrefe commented regarding Tuesday’s vote. “I’m proud that we have a resolution in place though. The New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association as well as other law enforcement and public safety-driven organizations will continue to voice our concerns against feel-good laws that do nothing to protect us from criminals, softer penalties, infringement on due process, and I’ll continue supporting everyone’s constitutional rights on my oath.”

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