The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear a case challenging a gun control law in Illinois and gun control advocates are seeing the move as a green light for states and local governments to pass gun laws.
But many gun rights advocates view any gun law as a violation of the Second Amendment.
The group New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence is hosting a vigil with the city of Santa Fe on the Plaza at noon on Saturday, December 12, 2015. Co-president Miranda Viscoli says the focus should be on preventing violence – and there are three gun law proposals at the top of her priority list. She spoke with KUNM's Elaine Baumgartel.
Viscoli: What we would like to see is if you have two or more violent misdemeanors, your gun gets taken away for 5 years. Why we are really strong advocates for this, is that when you look at risk behavioral factors, violence is one of them.
KUNM: Is there a concern that focusing on violent misdemeanors, that it would be implemented disproportionately against people of color or people in poverty?
Viscoli: I look at gun violence prevention as the civil rights issue of our time. There is a disproportionate amount of young black males being killed by guns. At the same time, yes, there’s also a very direct correlation between poverty and gun violence. So, it’s a multi-pronged issue when we’re dealing with gun violence prevention. We need to deal with poverty, we need to deal with jobs, and we need to deal with education. I look at early childhood education as gun violence prevention.
KUNM: So tell me about another one of the pieces of regulation that you’d like to see.
Viscoli: When we look at the correlation between substance abuse and suicide, there’s a direct correlation. So, another law we would like to see is if you have one or more DWI’s, or a conviction with a controlled substance, your firearm gets removed—for a certain amount of time—not forever. But for a certain amount of time and that allows a person to kinda, you know, clean up their act before getting a firearm back into their hands.
KUNM: How does this removal of a firearm happen? Who makes the call? W ho starts that process moving under this hypothetical situation?
Viscoli: The judge. There’s a box that they check off saying ‘firearms are prohibited from this person.’ It does bring into question something we need to fix before we do any of this. We have no removal laws in New Mexico, which means that the police have a very difficult time removing a firearm. Right now the ATF and the feds can remove a firearm.
KUNM: What’s the third item?
Viscoli: It’s a gun violence restraining order. And basically what it means is, if you have a friend, if you have a family member who is either drinking too much, talking about being violent towards others, acting suicidal, talking about suicide—you can get a court order to have that firearm removed, but it never goes on their record. It’s simply a safeguard. It also helps in terms of just downright dangerous people. When you look at the Charleston shooting, that kid’s friend actually removed the firearm from him because he said ‘I want to go shoot up a bunch of black people.’ If that kid, could have gone to the police and said ‘he’s saying this, this firearm needs to be removed. ’ The reason why California is doing it, is because of the Santa Barbara shooting where the parents went to the sheriffs and said ‘hey, um, he’s acting really dangerous. We’re very concerned. You need to make sure there aren’t firearms in the house.’ And unfortunately, the sheriffs didn’t follow through with that as much as they should have.
KUNM: Did they have the legal prerogative at the time to do that?
Viscoli: No. So what California did, being California, they immediately put into place a gun violence restraining order so we’re all watching to see how that works.
KUNM: Are we going to see any of these kinds of laws passed in New Mexico any time soon?
Viscoli: I don’t think any time soon. But we are working 24/7 to see what we can get passed. Right now we need to some simple fixes. We need to fix our background check system. We need to have our state laws mirror our federal laws. We need to really clean up our domestic violence laws, they are some of the weakest in the country. So those are some things we need to work on right now.