Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Heinrich voices support for gun control bill

Sen. Martin Heinrich, DN.M.

Copyright © 2022

Two teens shot and killed near Cottonwood Mall on Mother’s Day.

A New Mexico State Police officer gunned down during a traffic stop.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, DN.M., took to the Senate floor on Thursday and talked about how a bipartisan gun control measure being considered by the Senate could have had an affect on high-profile gun crimes that have been committed in the state. Heinrich was part of a bipartisan team of senators who negotiated the bill in the wake of horrific mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas.

The Senate approved the measure Thursday night, with 15 Republicans voting for the bill. It now heads to the House, where a vote is expected Friday.

The measure would do things like beef up background checks on people under 21 seeking to buy firearms and provide funding and training to states for what Heinrich called “crisis-intervention laws,” which allow authorities to take firearms from people who have been found to be a threat to themselves or others. The bill would also allow guns to be taken from dating partners who are subject to orders of protection or have a history of domestic violence and provide funding for mental health services and school security, among other measures.

Heinrich focused on a recent shooting in Albuquerque that left two teens dead.

Bradley Wallin, 53, shot and killed Alexia Rael, 17, and Mario Salgado-Rosales, 16, in the West Side parking lot last month before turning the gun on himself, according to police.

Rael’s mother had taken out an order of protection against Wallin on April 4, accusing him of threatening Rael. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office was investigating claims that Wallin had abused Rael.

The protection order also said that Wallin had at least one firearm.

Heinrich said law enforcement could have filed a petition, and then had a hearing before a judge, to take away Wallin’s firearms. But the New Mexico law allowing for such actions has been rarely used since it was enacted two years ago.

“Unfortunately, the local sheriff’s office failed to recognize the threat that he posed, and didn’t use our state’s law to remove the firearms that he used to take the lives of two young New Mexicans,” he said.

New Mexico’s senior senator said the gun control measure provides funding and training to make those types of laws, sometimes called red-flag laws, more effective.

A spokeswoman for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Heinrich also mentioned State Police Officer Darian Jarrott, who was shot and killed by a convicted felon during a traffic stop on Interstate 10 east of Deming in 2021.

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He said the suspect’s wife purchased firearms for Omar Cueva because he was a convicted felon and couldn’t buy one.

Heinrich said the wife, Laura Swanquist-Chavez, 35, is currently being prosecuted on a “minor paperwork offense” for buying that gun. He said the gun control measure would increase such penalties.

“She would be facing more severe and deserved consequences for her role in the death of a State Police officer,” he said.

Swanquist-Chavez has pleaded guilty to purchasing two firearms for Cueva, according to court records. A sentencing date hasn’t been scheduled, according to a federal court website.

Sen. Ben Ray Luján, DN.M., also voted for the bill, which is being called the most significant gun legislation in decades.

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