Governor’s gun order draws fire locally, nationally

Gun with the prohibited symbol over it.

By Connor Currier / NM News Port

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health emergency order restricting gun carrying in Bernalillo County has received extreme backlash, not only from the NRA and Republicans in Congress but also from local leaders who refused to carry out the order.  The governor has since downsized the order.

The Sept. 8 public health emergency declaration ordered a 30-day temporary suspension on all open and concealed carry laws in Bernalillo County. Grisham’s order followed the fatal shootings of two children, an 11-year-old outside the Isotopes Park in Albuquerque and a 5-year-old who was sleeping inside a trailer in Southwest Albuquerque.

After wide pushback, including local law enforcement who refused to enforce the ban, Grisham on Sept. 15 scaled back the temporary public health order, limiting the gun ban to parks and playgrounds in the Albuquerque metro area. 

Lujan Grisham’s executive order has garnered national attention and has reignited the debate over gun violence prevention. 

“I do find it frustrating as a citizen with a law degree to see my governor and my state on the news nationally,” said Minerva Camp, a lawyer and professor at the UNM,  “for this situation, invoking jurisdiction, taking judicial resources, wasting judges’ time…” 

New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez also came out against enforcing the order. On Sep. 12, Torrez wrote to the governor that he thought the gun control executive order was unconstitutional.

“…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,’’ Torrez wrote.

Nationally, Grisham’s action drew sharp rebuke. On Sep 18, a U.S. House of Representatives committee held a hearing on whether to condemn the temporary firearm restrictions. Congressman Tom Tiffany, a Republican representing Wisconsin, brought the resolution forward.

The governor’s office replied, as reported by KOAT-TV.

“Gov. Lujan Grisham knew there would be challenges to her decision and people who didn’t understand the need for swift, bold action; The governor is focused on what New Mexico needs right now, and what can be done to make people here safe,” the statement said.

On Sep. 14, U.S. District Judge David Urias temporarily blocked the law and ruled that the executive order contradicts recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gun rights, violating people’s abilities to defend themselves.

“They just want the right to carry their guns,” Urias said of the plaintiffs who asked for restraining orders in response to the executive order, according to the Highland County Press.

After the judge’s decision, a temporary restraining order prevented the enforcement of the governor’s executive order. The temporary restraining order goes into effect immediately and will last until Oct. 3, 2023. There will be another hearing on the matter on Oct. 3, five days before the remainder of the public health order is set to expire.

The governor released a statement on X (formerly Twitter) in response to the temporary restraining order, saying: “Today, a judge temporarily blocked sections of our public health order but recognized the significant problem of gun violence in this state. I refuse to be resigned to the status quo, and I will never stop fighting to prevent other families from enduring these tragedies.” 

The governor and her administration are also facing legal backlash from the NRA. On Sep. 14, the National Rifle Association was joined by every single GOP state House and Senate member, along with the Republican Party of New Mexico and the Libertarian Party of New Mexico as petitioners. The NRA-ILA Executive Director Randy Kozuch wrote to Lujan Grisham.

“Please rescind your unlawful and blatantly unconstitutional orders and uphold your oath to defend the constitutional rights of those in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. Until then, we’ll see you in court,” Kozuch wrote.

As the controversy plays out — with some crediting the governor for at least doing something — legal experts like Camp say there must be a better way. 

“I would rather see a judge, and all the judicial resources going to things that matter than a governor choosing to waste judicial resources, attorney general’s time, and the news’ time,” Camp said.