To a standing ovation and applause from a near full commission chambers, the Hobbs City Commission voted for its County Sheriff and for the lawful right of residents to bear arms.
During its meeting Monday, the Hobbs City Commission unanimously approved Resolution No. 6909 declaring opposition to the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, New Mexico Senate Bill 5, also dubbed the “red-flag” bill, which was passed by the 2020 New Mexico Legislature last week.
Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton, who previously was a Hobbs police officer for 22 years, is one of 30 New Mexico sheriffs who are in direct opposition of the bill and what it means for Lea County residents. The bill calls for law enforcement officials to have the authority to require the relinquishment of firearms from a person who may be deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Helton and the rest of those in opposition, believe the red-flag bill is unconstitutional. He stood before the commission’s vote hoping Hobbs’ governing body would join in the fight against the red-flag bill.
“This bill has nothing to do with being a Republican or Democrat or whatever,” Helton said. “This is a constitutional issue. I stand here before you hoping that you can pass this so we can stand unified. We need to stand unified.”
As of Thursday’s signing, Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham has yet to sign the bill into law which puzzled Helton.
“It was a mad dash to get it through the Senate,” Helton said. “Skipping judiciary and skipping every vital committee it needed to go to, just to get it signed Friday and it still hasn’t been signed.”
Helton said the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association and the Albuquerque Police Officers Association has retained an attorney.
“The moment (the bill) is signed it will be filed into the Supreme Court for an injunction,” Helton said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with this, but I ask that (the Hobbs Commission) pass this resolution and we stand unified. I am willing to go toe to toe. I have been in the media all weekend. I know the Governor doesn’t like me and I don’t care. I think I am doing right. I think God put me here 25 years ago in this great city with a great career to be doing what I am doing right now and I am not going to stop. But it would sure be nice to have the City of Hobbs, the police, the chief of police all on board with me because I will fight this alone if I have to. But I would sure like to be unified.”
Helton said if the red-flag bill becomes law the potential for a lawsuit against law enforcement could come from either direction. Helton said law enforcement can get sued for not acting on the petitioner, but law enforcement can also get sued from the respondent for an unlawful search and seizure.
“It’s coming, either way,” Helton said. “And I’m here to tell you commissioners that I do not support this red-flag bill and I’m not going to enforce it.”
Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said himself, Acting City Manager Manny Gomez, and many of the Hobbs Commissioners went to Santa Fe during the Legislature and met with state lawmakers on their opposition of the bill. He said the Legislative bodies from Lea and Eddy Counties voted against the bill in committee and when it went to the House floor.
“There has been a lot of work done to try and stop this,” Cobb said. “It sits on the Governor’s desk and we hope that the actions tonight of our community and this Commission would further let her and her leadership know that we feel it is flawed legislation.”
Commissioner Chris Mills, who attended the debate and watched the bill vote live, talked about the Legislators who approved the measure.
“The people who voted on this bill in the affirmative are not from here,” Mills said. “No one voted for him. These are people from northern New Mexico, mainly Albuquerque and Santa Fe. They voted for this and don’t care about our input. In the past, we have all worked together on these sorts of things, so although they may have the majority, they respected the minority’s rights. In this case, the State did not respect our rights and passed this bill against what I’d say is strong opposition.”
Mills added the bill is not just a violation of due process but also an, “overally flawed law that’s focused on the gun.”
Commissioner Dwayne Penick spoke in support of the opposition with the idea that the bill is being created to “disarm Americans,” and added a quote from Thomas Jefferson.
“When the people fear the government, you have tyranny,” Penick said, “and where the government fears the public, you have liberty.”
The City Commission’s resolution vote follows the same type of resolutions as approved by the Lea County Commission, the Jal City Council and last week, the Eunice City Council.
‘There has been a lot of work done to try and stop this. It sits on the Governor’s desk and we hope that the actions tonight of our community and this commission would further let her and her leadership know that we feel it is flawed legislation.’