Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D.) is facing multiple lawsuits and the threat of several more after issuing an emergency order to suspend open and concealed carry rights for New Mexicans in the state’s largest city.
On Saturday, the National Association for Gun Rights and Gun Owners of America filed separate suits in federal court attempting to block her order. Republicans in both houses of the New Mexico legislature also announced they plan to file their own federal case to stop the ban. The National Rifle Association and its state affiliate implied they may file lawsuits seeking damages of up to $2 million per person affected by the order.
“It is extremely clear that Grisham knows she is operating outside of Constitutional bounds, especially after last summer’s Bruen ruling which specifically protected individuals’ rights to carry firearms outside the home,” the National Association for Gun Rights said in a statement.
The order and resulting legal fight will determine what kind of teeth the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen has in practice. In that ruling, the High Court found the Second Amendment guarantees a right to carry a firearm in public for self-defense. Governor Grisham’s ban on all forms of gun carry by everyone in the affected areas is the most direct challenge to that holding since it was handed down last year.
“No constitutional right, in my view, including my oath, is intended to be absolute,” Governor Grisham said in a press conference.
On Thursday, she issued an order declaring an emergency after an 11-year-old was murdered in an unsolved road rage incident. The next day, she declared it would be illegal to carry a gun open or concealed in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County for 30 days, even for those with valid permits. When asked why the order was necessary given the issues she had described, such as stealing guns or committing murder, are already illegal, she said it was largely about sending a message to law enforcement to make more arrests.
When asked whether New Mexicans with a license to carry a firearm should be targeted for arrest, Governor Grisham responded, “I can make the point that maybe they should be.”
She argued that didn’t necessarily violate her oath of office because emergency powers allow exceptions to upholding the Constitution, and “bold” action was needed to protect the rights of gunshot victims not to be harmed. She said those rights were more important than the right to carry a gun.
“If we ignore this growing problem without being bold, I’ve said to every other New Mexican, ‘your rights are subjugated to theirs,'” Grisham said.
Still, she admitted the ban was unlikely to have any direct impact on those who actually commit the violence she’s seeking to stop. When asked whether she thought the ban would get criminals to give up carrying firearms, she responded, “No.”
“But here’s what I do think: It’s a pretty resounding message to everybody else in that community to report a crime,” she said.
Other state officials have been unwilling to join the Governor in pursuing the ban. Several released statements to KOB4 saying they would not enforce the order, instead leaving the task up to the state police.
“APD is not responsible for enforcing the governor’s ban, our officers will continue to enforce all criminal laws, combat gun violence, and push for needed justice in our city,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said.
“[A]s the elected Sheriff, I have reservations regarding this order,” Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said. “While I understand and appreciate the urgency, the temporary ban challenges the foundation of our Constitution, which I swore an oath to uphold. I am wary of placing my deputies in positions that could lead to civil liability conflicts, as well as the potential risks posed by prohibiting law-abiding citizens from their constitutional right to self-defense.”
Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman, whom Grisham appointed, also refused to enforce the order.
“As an officer of the court, I cannot and will not enforce something that is clearly unconstitutional,” Bregman, who is the top prosecutor for Albuquerque, told the Associated Press. “This office will continue to focus on criminals of any age that use guns in the commission of a crime.”
Even a number of high-profile gun-control advocates pushed back on the Governor’s outright carry ban. California Congressman Ted Lieu (D.) and March For Our Lives co-founder David Hogg posted tweets that ended with “There is no such thing as a state public health emergency exception to the U.S. Constitution.” Giffords Senior Advisor Ryan Busse called the ban a “bad idea.”
“Will not solve anything, may make things worse,” he tweeted. “Is the sort of knee-jerk that only fosters distrust.”
Not everyone opposed the order, though. Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, backed the move, saying, “If it saves one life, then it’s worth doing,” according to The Guardian. Michael Knowles, a New Right commentator best known for his CPAC speech declaring “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely,” also backed the move.
Ultimately, Governor Grisham said she would still pursue any action to try and reduce gun carry in New Mexico.
“I’m willing to do anything and everything within a shred of evidenced-based effort because if you’re not horrified that on any street corner in too many cities in New Mexico, there is somebody with a gun sticking out of their waist or their belt,” Grisham said.