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A woman opposed to the governor’s executive order waves a civil peace flag, commonly used by self-described sovereign citizens, as she speaks out against the governor as protesters gathered on Sunday, Sept. 10, in Old Town. Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source NM 

 This photo was originally published by Source New Mexico 

Unpacking the solutions to gun violence in New Mexico

The Sept. 6 shooting outside Isotopes Park that left 11-year-old, Froylan Villegas, dead has prompted a statewide conversation about the solutions to gun violence.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a public health order on Sept. 8 prohibiting open or concealed carry in Albuquerque and Bernalillo county for 30 days. After a federal judge temporarily blocked the order, Lujan Grisham modified the order on Sept. 15 to only prohibit open or concealed carry in public parks or playgrounds.

Gun violence is the second leading cause of death from injury in New Mexico, according to Dr. Richard Miskimins, Trauma Medical Director at University of New Mexico Hospital. The hospital encourages and distributes trigger locks as an intervention method, he said.

“Preventing immediate access but not preventing thoughtful access is what prevents death,” Miskimins said.

Red flag laws are another potential solution, Miskimins said. New Mexico’s version of such a law is the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act enacted in 2020. It allows individuals to petition the court to take firearms away from household members who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Miskimins regularly partners with New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. He and Miranda Viscoli — NMPGV Co-President — both contributed to the New Mexico Department of Health’s 2021-2026 Statewide Strategic Plan for Preventing Firearm Injuries and Deaths.

NMPGV is a nonpartisan organization that works with schools, law enforcement and legislation, Viscoli said. They facilitate gun buybacks, public safety campaigns and host eight-week gun violence prevention workshops in Albuquerque to give youth the space to discuss the issue.

“We can’t incarcerate a way out of this, and incarcerating teenagers is not the answer,” Viscoli said. “We need to get on the preventative side of that to figure out why our kids have such access to firearms and what we can do to prevent them going down that path.”

NMPGV hopes to see a future law requiring a waiting period on gun purchases. This would target suicides and crimes of compassion, which make up the majority of gun deaths in the state, Viscoli said. The organization also wants the minimum age for the purchase of semi-automatic firearms to be raised from 18 to 21.

“We learned quite early on that we needed to change the culture of gun ownership and gun safety,” Viscoli said.

At the university level, Maryam Ahranjani – the Ron & Susan Friedman Professor of Law at UNM – suggests a focus on mental health. It is important to recognize that the campus is open to the public, she said.

“It’s not just students, faculty or staff. It’s also, more broadly, the community’s mental wellness that affects our safety,” Ahranjani said.

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It is illegal to carry a firearm on UNM premises, per University policy, but that is the only guideline that mentions guns.

Every university nationwide has an obligation to improve campus safety, Joshua Kastenberg – Professor of Law – said. This means accessible mental health care, but also the ability for students to report dangerous individuals, he said.

Lauri Andress — Associate Dean of the College of Population Health — proposes holistic, public health focused methods to combat gun violence, she wrote in a statement to the Daily Lobo. This would involve community violence intervention, which includes hospital-based intervention, street outreach and mentorship.

“The public health strategy focuses on prevention and the after-effects of violence,” Andress wrote.

Miskimins believes UNM should emphasize outreach. Mentoring at-risk youth is one of the best ways to prevent gun violence, he said.

“I think having conversations about gun violence is important,” Ahranjani said. “There’s a tendency when something happens for there to be a lot of attention right away, and then it sort of dies down until the next terrible incident. It’s important to keep these conversations alive in real time.”

Lily Alexander is a Beat Reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @llilyalexander.


Lily Alexander

 Lily Alexander is the 2024-2025 Editor of the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at editorinchief@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @llilyalexander 

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