Mass shootings and other gun crimes are a reality many New Mexicans think about regularly. To some, Albuquerque is an especially concerning place to live.
Those were among the takeaways when NMPolitics.net piggybacked off a question The New York Times explored in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. — How often, if ever, do you think about the possibility of a shooting in your daily life? We asked our community on Facebook to weigh in.
Some said they are making choices — including arming themselves — to feel safer.
“I’m beginning the process of acquiring a weapon and qualifying for concealed carry. Don’t intend to be a victim,” Mary Thompson of Las Cruces said.
Many said they refuse to let fear overtake them.
“Life is too short to waste it worrying about dying,” Joe Bryant of Albuquerque said.
Here’s a sample of the responses we received:
‘It is constantly on the news’
Kimberly Fries Walker of Santa Fe said she thinks about the possibility of a shooting “every day.”
“I’m a teacher. One daughter is a teacher. The others are nurses. We go to movies,” she said. “This is wrong. No one should have to associate gun violence with education, health care or entertainment.”
While some say they refuse to live in fear, Deb Johnson of Las Cruces said she “can’t apply my bravado” and claim she doesn’t think about shootings.
“Of course it crosses my mind every time I have to go into any large crowded public event, or even theaters,” Johnson said. “…Even if I don’t let it determine my actions, it does cross my mind.”
Sam Sandoval Jr. of Albuquerque agreed.
“It is constantly on the news, we are deluged in grief and fear,” he said.
‘Albuquerque is particularly violent’
Several people referred to the recent spate of horrific crimes involving firearms in Albuquerque, including the October shooting death of 4-year-old Lilly Garcia in what police call a road-rage incident. Niccie Jo Werley-Crespin said she didn’t fear gun violence until recently.
“Just moved to Albuquerque and have become really cautious,” she said.
Peter Horan of Albuquerque agreed.
“I’m not so worried about being caught in a newsworthy mass shooting. I think the chances of that are unlikely,” he said. “I do worry about being shot by an angry driver or in some other isolated incident, given that we have more guns than people in this country, and Albuquerque is particularly violent.”
Albuquerque’s violent crime rate — 774 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2013 — was higher than New Mexico’s rate of 597 per 100,000 residents and more than twice the national average of 368 per 100,000. And in 2014, violent crime increased in Albuquerque.
Lucinda Ulrich recently moved from the Duke City to Oregon in part to escape the crime in New Mexico’s largest city. While shootings were a daily concern in Albuquerque, she said she now worries maybe once a week.
Still, she’s not happy with the reality her 11-year-old daughter faces, even in Oregon. Her school does active-shooter drills.
“This is not the type of world I want to live in or to leave my daughter,” Ulrich said.
‘I refuse to live my life in fear’
Mark Benson of Las Cruces is among those who responded to NMPolitics.net’s question by saying they refuse to be consumed by worry.
“I refuse to live my life in fear. Being paranoid and fearful is only enabling domestic and foreign terrorists,” Benson said.
Carol Haussamen of Las Cruces agreed. (Disclosure: She’s my mom.)
“To do so is to let terrorism win,” Haussamen said. “Fear robs your life, and the fear-mongering by some in this country is meant to distract and divide. I am reminded of a quote from someone in Paris in the aftermath of the terrorism there — ‘We’re never truly safe, but we always have to live.'”
Gerry Lindstrom of Los Alamos said there’s little reason to fear.
“As horrific as these events are, statistically they are so infrequent that they are basically nonexistent,” Lindstrom said.
‘I live with a gun on me’
With mass shootings on the rise, others see things differently. Carol Owensby, who teaches at a public high school in Las Cruces, thinks about the possibility of a shooting at her school.
“With all the glass windows in my classroom, the best security advice in an active-shooter situation is to run away,” she said. “I talk to the kids about it at the start of each semester, then we proceed as usual.”
“All you can do is plan for the worst, but hope for the best,” Owensby said.
Others are responding by arming themselves. In 2014, 40,794 New Mexicans had licenses to carry concealed handguns, according to the state’s Department of Public Safety. That was 2.7 percent of all adults age 20 and older.
“I live with a gun on me as I am the only one who can, will, and has the responsibility to protect myself and my family,” said Daniel Adams of Albuquerque.
Martin Molina of Albuquerque said the gun he carries makes him feel safe.
“I am very confident with my firearm. I probably put in more time at a shooting range than a cop,” he said.
Emily H. Melancon of Albuquerque said she’s more afraid of people who are arming themselves in response to mass shootings than those committing shootings.
“I don’t trust the masses to have firearms in public places. I’m OK with them defending their homes if they choose to, but with the hot-head tempers we have around here, I can see it turning into a blood bath of more mass shootings before it would help stop any of this,” Melancon said.