The frustration is easy to hear in state Sen. Craig Brandt’s voice.
Yes, he’d heard about the Feb.16 shooting threats at some local high schools, including Cleveland and Rio Rancho high schools in his hometown.
But, no, his proposed bill to make called-in shooting threats a felony – instead of a misdemeanor — hadn’t gotten any traction in the Roundhouse.
That afternoon, the “RRPS Community” received an email reporting that, “Police in several states and across our state are investigating reports of school safety threats today. A similar threat is being investigated at Rio Rancho High School. At this point there is nothing to substantiate the threat. Local law enforcement is on site at both high schools as a precautionary measure.”
Minutes later, RRPS basically relayed an email it received from the Rio Rancho Police Department, after a dispatcher “received a call of a shooting incident at Bernalillo High School. Law enforcement officers immediately responded and have found no evidence to substantiate the callers claims of a shooting. Shortly after, another call came in from a caller claiming that a shooting occurred at Rio Rancho High School. Our RRPD officers responded to the school and found no evidence of a shooting nor any injured students. Again, these claims have not been substantiated.”
Also, RRPD had learned of similar calls generated in Albuquerque and Santa Fe regarding their public schools.
After going 0 for 3 in the 2020, 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, Brandt was deterred this year from introducing his “Threat of Shooting” bill.
What his thrice-failed bill would do is amend a current law regarding bomb scares and make anyone threatening to shoot up a school or other building subject to a felony, not a misdemeanor, as it is now; Brandt rationalized that making bomb threats is a felony, yet the frequency of shooting threats is done more often and should face similar consequences.
His 2023 Senate Bill 34 — with the notation “API: Action Postponed Indefinitely” — contained language, “Making a shooting threat consists of falsely and maliciously stating to another person that the person making the threat or another person intends to bring a firearm to a property or use the firearm with the intent to place a person or group of persons in fear of great bodily harm; prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a public building; or cause a response to the threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies.”
And, once found guilty of making such a threat, “Whoever commits making a bomb scare or shooting threat is guilty of a fourth-degree felony,” and a court may order a person convicted for the offense of making a bomb scare or shooting threat to reimburse the victim of the offense for economic harm caused by that offense.”
“It’s extremely frustrating; this bill makes sense to every normal person,” he said, basically down but not out, as he said he may use a “dummy bill” to get his bill the law.
“Basically, as leadership (he’s the Senate minority whip), I get three bills to run in case of an emergency, so this is one of those situations,” he said. “I wasn’t going to run this, but with all these shooting threats coming in today, and with the chaos it caused, I decided to run it, so I can run it through one of these quick methods.”
Although one might think the issue would be non-partisan, Brandt doesn’t think that’s the case.
‘You have some Democrats that just absolutely refuse to put another felony into the law books – oh, I’m sorry — except when it’s their gun bills; they want to make those felonies,” he said. “This is a gun bill, except it’s actually taking it further than just having a gun in the wrong place. You’ve actually threatened to use a gun, and you don’t want it to be a felony to actually have one on you and accidentally go into a restaurant where you used to be able to carry (it) in, but you can’t anymore.”