Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday renewed a public health order aimed at combating gun violence and added some new provisions: the state will organize gun buy-backs in Albuquerque, Española and Las Cruces and provide treatment to those seeking help battling addictions.
The renewal comes a month after the governor declared gun violence a public health emergency following the high-profile shooting death of an 11-year-old boy, and initially enforced a short-lived ban on publicly carrying firearms in Bernalillo County.
“The fact of the matter is that New Mexicans are still being threatened, injured and killed by firearms. Just yesterday, two guns were found in the possession of students at an Albuquerque high school, and while thankfully no one was hurt, these incidents have profound psychological effects on our children,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “The last four weeks have clearly demonstrated the impact we can have on violent crime when we work in better coordination, but the situation remains dire. We’re not letting up, and I’m continuing to make investments that drive down violence in our communities and protect our children.”
The gun ban — the most controversial part of the Sept. 8 order — quickly captured headlines and the ire of conservative lawmakers and some gun owners statewide. Several lawsuits mounted, including from the National Rifle Association, and a federal judge blocked the ban in less than a week.
Lujan Grisham amended that portion of the order to only ban carrying guns in public parks and playgrounds across Bernalillo County, something the city of Albuquerque had already sought to do and which has been challenged in court.
On Friday, a few new items were added to the order, including the gun buy-backs and that the state’s health care system would ensure that those who request help with substance abuse receive “permanent, adequate treatment placement within 24 hours of the request.”
The order also says the state’s Human Services Department will send letters requiring health care providers to “provide their plans to achieve continual behavioral health network adequacy.”
When asked how the Governor’s Office would achieve the new measures related to substance abuse in a state historically stretched thin in behavioral health care, spokeswoman Maddy Hayden said they have “implemented new data and monitoring requirements to increase accountability to ensure that Managed Care Organizations are in compliance.”
“Data collection is ongoing and we are working with the MCOs to make sure they are providing timely care,” Hayden said.
The order also includes several of the initial measures, including testing wastewater at schools for drugs like fentanyl, monthly inspections of licensed gun dealers for violations, allowing police to book juveniles into jail without social services’ permission and sending New Mexico State Police officers to help local authorities fight crime in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.
While deputies and officers have arrested hundreds of people following the order, it is unclear what effect that has had on gun violence and where the other initiatives, such as testing school wastewater, stand.
In regard to combating gun violence, Hayden told the Journal the Governor’s Office is working to gather current data on shootings to assess changes since the order was enacted.
“In the meantime, I can tell you that there has been an unprecedented coordinated effort among state and local partners to take action against violent offenders in Albuquerque,” she said.
Hayden said they have not yet collected data to share on the testing of school wastewater for drugs.
“Gun violence is a leading cause of death among young people in New Mexico. That should horrify all of us,” state Health Secretary Patrick Allen said in a statement. “It’s vital that we all work to nurture a culture of responsible firearm ownership and safety.”
He added, “By supplying free trigger locks and orchestrating safe surrender events, we join forces with our communities, courageously tackling the menace of gun violence to ensure the safety and well-being of every New Mexican.”