In a bold move to combat escalating gun violence, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a 30-day ban on carrying firearms in public areas and state property within Albuquerque and its surrounding county. The governor’s executive order, declared as a response to a public health emergency, has ignited both support and criticism.
The ban, announced on Friday, encompasses Bernalillo County and restricts the open and concealed carry of firearms on state-owned properties, public schools, and parks. Exceptions are granted solely to law enforcement officers and licensed security personnel. For residents with valid gun permits, firearm possession remains permissible on private property.
When transporting firearms, individuals must ensure the weapons are rendered inoperable, secured within a locked container or equipped with a trigger lock. Those found in violation of the order could face fines up to $5,000.
Governor Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, took this decisive action following a series of tragic shootings involving children, including the heart-wrenching death of an 11-year-old boy outside an Albuquerque minor-league baseball stadium.
She has categorized these incidents as an epidemic, emphasizing that the ban aims to provide a “cooling-off period” for the state to develop effective strategies for addressing gun violence and bolstering public safety.
However, she acknowledges that the ban may face legal challenges and does not guarantee its permanence. “I welcome the debate and the fight about making New Mexicans safer,” she stated.
The New Mexico Shooting Sports Association, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association (NRA), is currently in the process of preparing a lawsuit against the ban. Anthony Segura, a spokesperson for the organization, firmly asserts that Governor Lujan Grisham does not possess the authority to override federal and state constitutional rights.
The ban has sparked political backlash as well, with two New Mexico state representatives, Stefani Lord and John Block, both Republicans, calling for the governor’s impeachment. They contend that her actions constitute a violation of her oath to both New Mexico and the nation.
Governor Lujan Grisham, however, remains steadfast in her decision, citing her emergency powers and asserting that gun violence constitutes an emergency in itself.
The executive order applies statewide but directly impacts cities and counties that exceed specific thresholds for violent crime and gun-related emergency room visits, currently only encompassing Bernalillo County, home to Albuquerque.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina noted that state law enforcement officers would be responsible for enforcing the order. Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen expressed concerns regarding the ban’s constitutionality, emphasizing the potential risks faced by his deputies and the infringement upon law-abiding citizens’ constitutional right to self-defense. Nonetheless, he remained committed to combating the gun violence crisis affecting the county.
The governor’s executive order further mandates monthly inspections of firearms dealers statewide to ensure compliance with sale and storage regulations. It directs the state’s Department of Health to gather demographic information on gunshot victims, including age, race, ethnicity, and gender, along with details about the firearms involved and the circumstances leading to the injuries.
Patrick Carter, co-director of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, acknowledges evidence suggesting that fewer guns correlate with reduced violence.
However, he emphasizes the need for comprehensive approaches that blend policy with other interventions to effectively prevent firearm injuries.
Robert Leider, an assistant professor of law at George Mason University, expressed skepticism regarding the ban’s legal standing, noting that such bans typically arise in more acute states of emergency. He questions whether the ban will withstand legal scrutiny.
Governor Lujan Grisham assured that the ban would be lifted after 30 days if the gun violence epidemic subsided but expressed doubt that this would be the case. She hinted at potential modifications, vowing to make Albuquerque the safest place in America. Achieving this ambitious goal, she acknowledges, will be a challenging endeavor, but she is determined to tackle the issue head-on.