New Mexico Governor’s Firearms Ban Is Derided as a Coarse Gesture to the Constitution and Supreme Court

Ms. Grisham claims that no constitutional right, including the right to bear arms, is absolute.

Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP
Governor Lujan Grisham announces an order restricting people from carrying guns in Bernalillo County for 30 days during a news conference in the Governor's Office on Friday. Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP

A prominent Second Amendment advocacy group is suing the governor of New Mexico for her unilateral ban of both open and concealed carry of firearms at her state’s capital city. She has been accused of violating both the United States and New Mexico constitutions even by some of the most ardent pro-gun control advocates in the nation. 

On Friday, Governor Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, signed a civil order that banned the open and concealed carry of firearms within the borders of Bernalillo County — which encompasses Albuquerque — for 30 days. She cited rampant gun violence in declaring a public health emergency, including the recent shooting deaths of a 13-year old girl, a five-year old girl, and an 11-year old boy as the inspiration for her order. 

“The time for standard measures has passed,” Ms. Luhan Grisham said in a press release. “And when New Mexicans are afraid to be in crowds, to take their kids to school, to leave a baseball game — when their very right to exist is threatened by the prospect of violence at every turn — something is very wrong.”

She also signed an executive order declaring illegal drug use a public health emergency in her state.

Since the pandemic, some Democratic lawmakers and executive officials across the country have taken to declaring public health emergencies for a variety of reasons, whether it be drug abuse, gun violence, or racism. In California alone, 38 government bodies have declared racism a public health crisis, including the city councils at Oakland, Los Angeles, and Monterey.

During a press conference at the state capitol building on Saturday, a reporter asked the governor how she could ask law enforcement to arrest someone who has a valid concealed carry permit and is legally carrying a firearm.

“I can make the point that maybe they should be,” Ms. Luhan Grisham responded. In defense of her order, she claimed that no constitutional right is absolute, including the right to bear arms. “No constitutional right, in my view, including my oath, is intended to be absolute,” she said. “There are restrictions on free speech. There are restrictions on my freedoms.”

The president of the Crime Research Prevention Center, a Montana-based pro Second Amendment think tank, John Lott, tells the Sun that Ms. Luhan Grisham’s rationale for her order centers on a handful of recent road rage incidents in the state. There is, however, no evidence that the incidents involved people with permits to carry firearms, he says.

“Why ban permit holders from carrying when the attacks were not committed by them?,” Mr. Lott says. “Worse, permit holders have actually stopped recent road rage incidents in New Mexico.”

On Saturday, she was sued by the National Association for Gun Rights, and one of its New Mexico-based members, Foster Haines, who say the order violates both the state and federal constitutions.

The President of the National Association of Gun Rights, Dudley Brown, likened Governor Luhan Grisham’s order to a coarse gesture to the Supreme Court and the Constitution. “She needs,” Mr. Brown suggested, “to be held accountable for stripping the God-given rights of millions away with the stroke of a pen … This is the very danger of runaway executives who believe they have unilateral authority to suspend the Constitution under the guise of an ‘emergency.’” 

Some local officials, including the mayor and police chief of Albuquerque, have already said they would not enforce the governor’s order. Bernalillo’s County’s district attorney, Sam Bregman, who was appointed to his position by Ms. Luhan Grisham, said he could not enforce her “clearly unconstitutional” executive order. “This office will continue to focus on criminals of any age that use guns in the commission of a crime,” Mr. Bregman said Saturday.

Even some of the nation’s most prominent gun control advocates say the governor has overstepped her bounds with the order. One survivor of the 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting who has become a prominent voice for gun control, David Hogg, agreed that the order was unconstitutional. “ I support gun safety but there is no such thing as a state public health emergency exception to the U.S. Constitution,” Mr. Hogg said on Twitter, now known as X. 

Congressman Ted Lieu, a member of House Democratic leadership and a supporter of President Biden’s ban on so-called assault weapons, also denounced the governor’s actions. “I support gun safety laws,” the California legislator said Saturday. “However, this order from the Governor of New Mexico violates the U.S. Constitution. No state in the union can suspend the federal Constitution. There is no such thing as a state public health emergency exception to the U.S. Constitution.”

Ms. Luhan Grisham cited her state’s epidemic of violent crime as a justification for her “public health emergency” order. New Mexico’s violent crime rates are nearly double the national average, with roughly 778 incidents per 100,000 residents compared to 398 incidents per 100,000 residents nationally according to FBI crime data. 

State legislators in New Mexico have called for the governor’s impeachment and removal from office, though with Democratic majorities in both the state house of representatives and the state senate, it is unlikely that such a step will gain any traction. 

“We made an oath, which is a promise that we swear that we’re going to uphold the Constitution, the rights of New Mexicans, and she threw that right out the window,” Republican representative Stefani Lord told a local television station, KRQE. A colleague of Ms. Lord’s, state Representative John Block, said that “our governor, she called for open season on law-abiding citizens by subverting the state and federal constitutions and laws of our state, and that’s something that needs to be remedied immediately.”


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