The Associated Press
Published 10:00 AM EDT Aug 15, 2019
SANTA FE – New Mexico state legislative leaders and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham outlined proposals Wednesday to write definitions for domestic terrorism into state statutes to bolster investigatory powers and possibly stiffen penalties related to hate crimes.
The proposals came in response to recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, and were announced at the end of a one-day domestic terrorism summit involving lawmakers, prosecutors, Cabinet members and local law enforcement officials.
Participants gathered in the governor’s office for a briefing by the FBI and discussions about how to respond in particular to the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso that killed 22 people.
Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said changes to state statutes regarding terrorism-related crimes would be aimed at strengthening investigative capabilities. Attorney General Hector Balderas said proposals could include some stronger penalties for hate-related crimes.
Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf described the possible creation of a domestic terrorism unit, modeled after efforts by state prosecutors to combat internet-based crimes against minors.
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said the El Paso shootings add urgency to stalled efforts to enact red-flag legislation that makes it easier to petition a judge to take firearms from people who may be a danger to themselves or others.
“We simply cannot sit and not take action,” said Wirth, expressing his desire to include local law enforcement officials in the development of legislation.
Sheriffs from rural communities across much of New Mexico were vocal critics of a red-flag bill that stalled in the state Senate this year.
Lujan Grisham said the discussions Wednesday, which were closed to media, did not broach potential restrictions on assault-style weapons.
The Legislature is unlikely to meet until January at the start of a 30-day session that takes place in even-numbered years.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday said his state would add manpower to gang investigations surrounding white nationalist groups and create a new domestic terrorism unit to help “root out the extremist ideologies that fuel hatred and violence.”
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