Almost two months into Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health order targeting gun violence, local authorities have seized 86 guns and arrested more than 1,400 people in Bernalillo County, nearly a third of them on misdemeanors.
But gunfire in the county also went up 56%, or 72 more gunshots, over a three-day period compared with the same time last month, according to statistics compiled by the Governor’s Office.
“The work of local and state partners, especially law enforcement, in the last two months is yielding real results for the Albuquerque community,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement Thursday, announcing that she will renew the order for a second time, and another 30 days, on Friday.
“But now is no time to slow down, and we will continue our efforts to eradicate gun violence. This executive order sends a clear message that the safety and well-being of residents are our top priorities. We stand united in our resolve to combat gun violence and protect our communities.”
Spurred by the shooting death of an 11-year-old boy leaving an Isotopes baseball game with his family, Lujan Grisham declared gun violence a public health emergency on Sept. 7, calling for a controversial ban on publicly carrying guns in Bernalillo County.
The governor’s gun ban was quickly trimmed back — to only include parks and playgrounds — after lawsuits mounted and a federal judge issued an order blocking the ban.
Other measures of the order included testing school wastewater for fentanyl, not needing social services’ permission to book juveniles into jail and gathering data on the toll gunshot victims have on the state’s health care system.
Maddy Hayden, a spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office, said they have tested wastewater at 13 APS high schools, including La Cueva, West Mesa and Highland. She said all APS high schools will have been tested by Monday and the first results are expected Nov. 13.
Lujan Grisham first renewed the order on Oct. 6 and added two more measures: holding gun buyback events in Albuquerque, Española and Las Cruces this weekend and providing substance abuse treatment to those seeking help within 24 hours of the request.
The following week, Lujan Grisham touted the successes of the public health order, including the arrest of 502 people, 98 on misdemeanors, seizing 20 guns and 38 fewer gunshots across three days, all of which happened in the Albuquerque area.
The influx of bookings into the Metropolitan Detention Center from those arrests, a facility beleaguered by staff vacancies, led MDC to transfer 28 of the most “staff-intensive” inmates to the state Corrections Department.
But, even with an additional 939 arrests over the past weeks, MDC’s inmate population has dropped 13% since the governor’s last update, from 1,647 people on Oct. 10 to 1,434 as of Friday.
The facility is only able to hold 1,950 people, in accordance with a decadeslong settlement agreement, and has faced staff vacancies of 38% in the past month.
On Thursday, Lujan Grisham attributed another development to the public health order: a gun hadn’t been found on an Albuquerque Public Schools campus since Oct. 5, something APS officials confirmed.
“Gun violence has become a significant public health concern in New Mexico, leaving behind tragic consequences, including homicide, suicide, and unintentional injuries,” state Health Secretary Patrick Allen said in a statement. “The heartbreaking stories of lives lost, and families shattered by gun violence in our state emphasize the urgency of our efforts to combat this public health crisis.”