Following a string of fatal shootings, including a pair of recent mass shootings and the deaths of three children this summer, the governor of New Mexico has instituted a temporary ban on carrying firearms in public in certain parts of the state.
“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 added.
Effective immediately, the emergency order temporarily suspends open and concealed carry laws in Albuquerque and its surrounding Bernalillo County for at least 30 days, with some exceptions, what she called a “cooling off period” to combat a wave of gun violence.
The order follows the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy on his way home from a minor league baseball game this week, as well as the killing of a four-year-old girl in her bedroom last month.
“These are disgusting acts of violence that have no place in our communities,” the governor said in a statement this week. “This administration has done meaningful work to pass legislation, support law enforcement and significantly increase public safety resources to curb violence. But it is clear that we need to do more.”
The order also directs a state agency to conduct monthly inspections are licensed firearm dealers and orders the state health department to assemble a report on gunshot victims at hospitals across the state, among other measures.
Today, I signed an executive order declaring gun violence a public health emergency. To my fellow citizens: get loud. Step up. Demand change: from your neighbors, from your friends, from your communities, from your elected leaders. Enough is enough. More coming from me tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/jOt4fv4YDC
— Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (@GovMLG) September 7, 2023
The ban prohibits firearms on state property, including parks, state buildings and schools. It makes exceptions for law enforcement officers and licensed security guards. Residents with permits to carry firearms can possess those weapons on private property as long as they are transported in a lock box or have a trigger lock or other mechanism that prevents the weapon from being fired.
The governor’s novel approach to combatting the proliferation of firearms and a growing gun violence crisis is expected to draw constitutional challenges from right-wing groups and Second Amendment organisations.
A lawsuit from the National Association for Gun Rights was filed one day after the governer’s announcement.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said he is “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.”
Echoing statements from other Second Amendment and firearms groups opposed to reform measures, New Mexico’s top-ranked Republican state Senator Greg Baca accused the governor of targeting “law-abiding citizens with an unconstitutional gun order”. New Mexico’s House Republican leader Ryan Lane accused the governor of invoking the 11-year-old’s death to pursue an “anti-gun agenda” that is “literally killing New Mexicans daily”.
Far-right social media personalities have lashed out at the governor, calling for her arrest and labelling her a “dictator”.
“I’ve warned everyone that we expect a direct challenge, probably as you’re writing this we’re getting a challenge, and that’s the way it should work,” Governor Lujan Grisham said during a press conference. “But I have to take a tough direct stand, or basically I’m just ignoring the fact that we lost an 11-year-old, another child.”
Over the last few years, the governor has signed several pieces of legislation to restrict gun access, including a 2020 “red flag” law allowing law enforcement agencies to ask courts to temporarily remove firearms from people who could be a danger to themselves or others. She also has banned firearm possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.
Roughly half of US states have advanced permitless concealed carry laws, rapidly adopted by Republican lawmakers across the US as part of what right-wing activists have called a “constitutional carry” movement in recognition of the Second Amendment.
Governor Lujan Grisham also has requested federal support from the US Department of Justice and the White House.
“Too many times I hear, like over and over again, every time that something occurs, somebody wants to bring more federal resources,” she said. “I don’t need more federal agents in Albuquerque. You know what I need? I need more federal prosecutors.”