Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced last week a public health order that prohibits people from carrying firearms, either open or concealed, in Albuquerque and throughout Bernalillo County for the next 30 days, regardless of whether they have a permit.
The order takes effect immediately. It states “no person, other than a law enforcement officer or licensed security officer, shall possess a firearm … either openly or concealed, within cities or counties averaging 1,000 or more violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year since 2021.”
The Albuquerque Journal reported that four federal lawsuits had been filed as of Monday challenging the governor’s ban. On Tuesday, state Attorney General Raul Torrez shared a letter he sent to Lujan Grisham with the Observer, stating that he will not defend her administration in the lawsuits.
“Though I recognize my statutory obligation as New Mexico’s chief legal officer to defend state officials when they are sued in their official capacity, my duty to uphold and defend the constitutional rights of every citizen takes precedence,” he wrote, noting that he does not think the order will have “any meaningful impact on public safety” and that it will “pass constitutional muster.”
He went on to say that he shares the governor’s frustration and anger regarding gun violence, including the recent deaths of a 5- and 11-year-old that “should serve as a wakeup call to everyone,” he disagrees with her methods. “I encourage you to engage in a more thoughtful and deliberative process with members of the New Mexico Legislature rather than taking unilateral action that infringes on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens while having little if any discernible impact on the underlying dynamics driving gun violence in our community.” …
“I agree with the need to ‘start a debate’ about the devastating impact that gun violence is having our our citizens, especially our children, but the issuance of an executive order in violation of core constitutional principles is not the appropriate method fro bringing about such a debate,” Torrez said.
He also detailed what problems he saw in the order, saying it distrorts the intent of the Public Health Emergency Act “beyond its intended purpose of protecting the public from the ‘imminent threat of exposure to an extremely dangerous conditions or highly infectious toxic agent.'” Torrez also said that “simply rebranding gun violence as a ‘public health emergency’ will not satisfy the heightened judicial standard for justifying the blanked prohibition against any citizen, regardless of criminal conduct o intent, from carrying a firearm for personal protection.”
In short, the letter states, “The attempted reach of this order, despite currently being limited to Bernalillo County, is highly problematic because it purports to alter lawful firearm posession in ways that are inconsistent with the Federal and State Constitutions.”
While the order only applies to Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, it does have an impact in neighboring Sandoval County and Rio Rancho.
Here’s what some local elected officials had to say about the ban:
Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull
“As an elected official, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I am very concerned about the lawfulness of the actions taken by the governor. I am also highly concerned about the problematic position public safety personnel have been put in. I believe the appropriate and most effective way to address gun violence is through a criminal justice system that holds criminals accountable and through adequate funding for public safety. Turning law-abiding citizens into criminals is not the answer.”
Sandoval County Commissioner Katherine Bruch
“Whether the governor has the legal authority to issue her order may be a matter for the courts. I am grateful the governor has the courage to address the issue. I believe blind devotion to the NRA and the gun industry have done tremendous damage to our country.
Sandoval County Commission Chair Dave Heil
“Sandoval County passed a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary County resolution in 2019. In my conversation with Sheriff Casaus, he asked that I quote him: He supports the 2019 resolution and will not enforce the ban because it violates the N.M. and U.S. Constitutions.
“In our conversation we both agreed that the governor would make much more impact if she encouraged judges to keep criminals in jail where they can’t commit crimes with any weapons.”
Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block
“The governor once again punishes law-abiding citizens and coddles criminals. This culture of crime is her doing. She supports no-cash bail, supported taking away qualified immunity from law enforcement, against securing our border, against tougher penalties for criminals, and more. This is more virtuous signaling by a failure when she never fixed the problem when she could have.
“I think trampling on the rights of gun-owning New Mexicans is going to be the biggest mistake of MLG’s career.”
Rio Rancho City Councilor Bob Tyler
“As a retired police officer, I believe what the governor has unilaterally mandated is not lawful or enforceable, will not have the desired outcome, and will only serve to punish law-abiding citizens exercising their constitutionally protected rights. Whether as a retired police officer or now as an elected official, I took an oath to uphold the law. I am deeply troubled by the governor’s actions, as she has placed public safety personnel in an untenable position and in conflict with the oaths they have taken.
“This emergency order by the governor is another example of extreme political practices that only further polarize our communities rather than working together to implement policies and laws that can address the root of the problems.
“I want to thank Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen and Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman for upholding their oath of office and the constitution.”
Rio Rancho City Councilor Jeremy Lenentine
“I think it is disgraceful and a complete overreach by the governor.”
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich
“The gun violence in New Mexico and across our country has had devastating impacts on families, communities and our sense of safety. It’s why I led the effort on the first federal gun reform law passed in nearly three decades. There is more that can and should be done to stem the violence and ensure every American can feel safe at school, at the grocery store or at the movie theatre. As we do that work, we need to focus on solutions that are constitutional and enforceable. That’s what will save lives.”