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Lack of understanding with 'Red-flag law' is a statewide problem

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Peter Goodman
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Commentary:
Will the Yacone slaying help focus people on reasonable efforts to restrict gun ownership by the troubled and violence-prone – and on using the tools we have?

My introduction to Bob Yacone came when, on Facebook, he viciously trashed a friend. Bob owned and ran a Deming pizza joint called “Forghedaboudit.”

The Yacones opened a “Forghedaboudit” here. Felons can’t obtain a liquor license. Bob had pled “No Contest” to child abuse (2014) and pulled a gun on someone over a parking space (2018). Thus (after getting married) the Yacones sought the license in his wife Kim’s name. At the August 2019 County Commission hearing, I unsuccessfully opposed the liquor license, even though under New Mexico law Bob might technically not be a felon. (His child abuse sentence was deferred and the road rage incident pled down to a misdemeanor,) Afterward, Kim advised me that going to their restaurant would not be healthy.

A violence-prone criminal who’d abused his family and repeatedly demonstrated why he shouldn’t have a gun, has now allegedly shot his wife dead. Does that suggest we must create better safeguards or educate people about using the ones we have? Or both? It should spark a collegial conversation by people of good will about what efforts could be made, consistent with law and with fairness to gun owners, to make such events less frequent. Can’t say we could have prevented this one; but even though DWI laws don’t prevent all drunken-driving, we try to decrease the totals.

The system should have taken Bob Yacone’s gun. Even if he’s not a felon, someone could have alerted the sheriff to the danger.

We have a “red-flag law” under which someone should have sought to confiscate Bob’s gun. It wasn’t used. The law’s novelty and complexity intimidates folks. New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence offers training on using the law. I hope a future column or radio show will share relevant information. Even some law enforcement folks and judges seem not to understand it fully.

Kim repeatedly filed (then withdrew) papers seeking a restraining order against Bob. Then she filed and didn’t chicken out. (When she died, a court hearing was imminent on Bob’s request for a restraining order requiring Kim to move out.) Family Court judges or commissioners granting restraining orders have a form on which a required question concerns gun ownership. They rarely ask.

Sheriff Kim Stewart is more than concerned. She repeatedly explained to one Domestic Violence Commissioner that asking the violent spouse whether s/he has guns (then taking them) is not optional. The commissioner vaguely said she’d do better. Stewart says spot checks show no record that the question is asked. The problem is statewide.

Stewart called the situation “tragic and frightening,” and added, “People say the cops don’t do anything; we do; but we’re part of a law-enforcement system.”

There’s a lot to say. But one old Sun-News article stopped me cold. It reported Nick Yacone’s triumph in a regional cross-country meet, as a Mayfield senior. In the photo of his young face, his eyes are closed with exhausted exultation over hard-earned victory. It’s a pure and beautiful moment. But those same eyes reportedly discovered his mother’s dead body. Nick’s first two decades have been tough.

So above I hope we do better by Nick from now on, and even for Bob. We should imprison Bob, but recall that something in Bob’s life bent him too.