New Mexico governor's temporary ban on carrying guns in public meets resistance

"Enough is enough," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.

September 11, 2023, 1:16 PM

Emergency orders issued by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham suspending the right to carry firearms in public in and around Albuquerque are getting pushback from gun rights groups and some law enforcement officials and elected leaders.

Citing the recent shooting deaths of three children, including an 11-year-old boy gunned down outside a minor league baseball park last week, Grisham issued a 30-day ban on open and concealed carrying of firearms in her state's largest city and surrounding areas in Bernalillo County. The decree came a day after Lujan Grisham declared gun violence a statewide public health emergency, saying "the rate of gun deaths in New Mexico increased 43% from 2009 to 2018."

"When New Mexicans are afraid to be in crowds, to take their kids to school, to leave a baseball game -- when their very right to exist is threatened by the prospect of violence at every turn -- something is very wrong,” Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a statement.

PHOTO: New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at the Arcosa Wind Towers, Aug. 9, 2023, in Belen, N.M.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks at the Arcosa Wind Towers, Aug. 9, 2023, in Belen, N.M.
Alex Brandon/AP, FILE

Following the governor's order issued Friday suspending the open and concealed carrying of firearms in public in Albuquerque and neighboring jurisdictions by anyone other than law enforcement and licensed security officers, a gun rights group took legal action. The National Association for Gun Rights and one of its members who lives in Albuquerque filed a lawsuit asking the court to block the implementation of Lujan Grisham's gun-carry ban, arguing it's a violation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"The Carry Prohibition infringes the rights of the people, including Plaintiffs, to keep and bear arms as protected by the Second Amendment. There are significant penalties for violations of the law," the gun rights group argued in court documents.

Lujan Grisham said the temporary gun ban would be enforced by the state police and violators would be subject to a fine of up to $5,000.

"Gun violence is an epidemic in America, and I’m done letting it be an epidemic anywhere in my state. Enough is enough," Lujan Grisham said.

Prior to issuing the executive orders, Lujan Grisham said she consulted with the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security, the state Department of Public Health and the state Department of Public Safety.

Two Republican state representatives, John Block and Stefani Lord, are calling for the governor to be impeached over the orders.

"This is an abhorrent attempt to impose a radical, progressive agenda on an unwilling populous," Lord said in a joint statement with Block, "Rather than addressing crime at its core, Governor Grisham is restricting the rights of law-abiding gun owners."

PHOTO: Homicide detectives with the Albuquerque Police Department are investigating a fatal shooting with a teenage victim who was killed when shots were fired into a car. An adult victim was also taken to the hospital.
Homicide detectives with the Albuquerque Police Department are investigating a fatal shooting with a teenage victim who was killed when shots were fired into a car. An adult victim was also taken to the hospital.

Lord added, "I have a newsflash for the Governor: The Second Amendment is an absolute right and so is my authority to impeach you for violating your oath to New Mexico and the United States."

Lujan Grisham said the temporary gun carry ban will not be enforced on private property. During a briefing, she said, “Responsible gun owners are certainly not our problem, have never been our problem."

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina noted in a statement that it will be up to the state police to enforce the order, "not APD."

"Our officers at APD will continue to focus on the enforcement of criminal laws and arresting the criminals who are driving violent crime in the city," Medina said. "We have arrested over 200 murder suspects in the last two years and field officers are making dozens of felony arrests every day. Everyone is stepping up to keep Albuquerque residents safe from the influx of guns and illegal drugs."

Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen also issued a statement on Sunday, saying Lujan Grisham's order raises challenging constitutional issues.

"While I understand and appreciate the urgency, the temporary ban challenges the foundation of our constitution, which I swore an oath to uphold," Allen said. "I am wary of placing my deputies in positions that could lead to civil liability conflicts, as well as the potential risks posed by prohibiting law-abiding citizens from their constitutional right to self-defense."

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office will not enforce the concealed carry and open carry ban, Allen said at a press conference on Monday.

Allen said he believes this will not curb gun violence, but will instead hinder law-abiding citizens from defending themselves. "Criminals do not follow the law ... Never will see criminals follow the law," Allen said Monday.

Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, praised Lujan Grisham's actions to curb gun violence, saying, "If it saves one life, then it’s worth doing."

Lujan Grisham said she felt the urgent need to act following three fatal shootings involving children since late July and two mass shootings in the state in May.

The governor signed the first order declaring gun violence a statewide public health emergency a day after 11-year-old Froylan Villegas was killed and his aunt critically wounded in a road rage shooting that erupted Wednesday night as the boy and his family were leaving a minor league baseball game at Albuquerque's Isotopes Park.

The shooting erupted when Villegas' aunt, who was driving, possibly cut off a vehicle as they left the park, prompting the assailant or assailants to unleash a barrage of 17 shots, according to police. No arrests have been announced.

On Aug. 14, 5-year-old Galilea Samaniego was killed in a drive-by shooting in Albuquerque when a bullet penetrated a trailer house and struck her while she was sleeping, police said. Three teenagers were arrested and charged with murder in the case.

On July 28, Amber Archuleta, 13, was fatally shot at a house in Questa, New Mexico, according to police. A 14-year-old boy was arrested in the shooting and charged with murder, police said.

Three people were fatally shot and six others were wounded on May 15 when 18-year-old Beau Wilson was alleged to have "randomly" opened fire at cars and homes in Farmington, New Mexico, with three different weapons, including an AR-15-style rifle, authorities said. Wilson was shot to death by police.

On May 27, three people were killed and five others were injured when a shootout erupted between two biker gangs at the annual Red River Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally in New Mexico, police said. The investigation of the shooting is continuing and one suspect has been arrested on a murder charge, according to police.