In a controversial move, Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared gun violence a public health emergency in response to the shooting deaths of a thirteen-year-old girl on July 28, a five-year-old girl on August 14, and an eleven-year-old boy on September 6.
One of the most troubling aspects of this public health order is the temporary suspension of open and concealed carry laws in Bernalillo County effective immediately. This action directly infringes upon law-abiding citizens’ Constitutional right to bear arms. The Governor has carved out exceptions for licensed security guards and law enforcement officers.
“The action plan includes a suspension of open and concealed carry laws in Bernalillo County, temporarily prohibiting the carrying of guns on public property with certain exceptions. Exceptions include for licensed security guards and law enforcement officers. Citizens with permits to carry firearms are free to possess their weapons on private property (such as at a gun range or gun store), provided they transport the firearm in a locked box, use a trigger lock, or some other mechanism that renders the gun incapable of being fired,” according to the press release.
The public health order also directs:
- The Regulation and Licensing Division to conduct monthly inspections of licensed firearm dealers to ensure compliance with all sales and storage laws.
- The Department of Health, along with the Environment Department, to begin wastewater testing for illegal substances such as fentanyl at schools.
- The Department of Health to compile and issue a comprehensive report on gunshot victims presenting at hospitals in New Mexico, which shall include (if available): demographic data of gunshot victims, including age, gender, race, and ethnicity; data on gunshot victim’s healthcare outcomes; the brand and caliber of the firearm used; the general circumstances leading to the injury; the impact of gunshot victims on New Mexico’s healthcare system; and any other pertinent information.
- A prohibition on firearms on state property, including state buildings and schools. This also includes other places of education where children gather, such as parks.
- The State Police to add officers in Albuquerque with funding for overtime provided.
- The Children, Youth and Families Department to immediately suspend the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative and evaluate juvenile probation protocols.
“As I said yesterday, the time for standard measures has passed,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a statement. “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.”
Lujan Grisham said the restrictions “are going to pose incredible challenges for me as a governor and as a state.”
“I welcome the debate and fight about how to make New Mexicans safer,” she said at a news conference.
A reporter confronted Grisham on this ridiculous order.
Reporter: All the examples you cited are crimes. Kids shooting at other kids shooting from cars. So what’s the value of the civil order? Why not just do better law enforcement?
Grisham: Both, the value of the order is that it gives me three things. One, it says it’s a statewide issue, and it’s a message to everyone to start leveraging your resources and arresting people. Two, the jurisdictions come at this, including with the DOJ restrictions differently without the leveraging and the additional resources, arresting. And where do they go? We got to make sure that everyone is bumping up their services. It’s a message to the Metropolitan Detention Center. It’s a message to the HMOs, you better figure out treatment. We have been sort of stalled out. To your point, this order basically says to stop stalling out. And to your point, just arrest everyone. Well, I also have to have the ability I can’t arrest everyone. There are literally too many people to arrest.
Reporter: If someone’s got a concealed carry permit in Albuquerque walking down a public street, they’re not going to get arrested.
Grisham: I can make the point that maybe they should be. And this is the point. I’m willing to do anything and everything within a shred of evidence based effort. Because if you’re not horrified that on any street corner in too many cities in New Mexico, there is someone with a gun sticking out of their waist or their belt. And I’ll tell you, if you’re a young person, you’re not allowed to have a handgun.
Reporter: It’s a crime already.
Grisham: I got it. But we won’t be able to arrest all of them. So imagine just in a perfect world, if this was upheld, it gives all of these police officers the ability to focus on the real criminals.
Reporter: You took an oath to the Constitution. Isn’t it unconstitutional to say you cannot exercise your carry license?
Grisham: With one exception, and that is if there’s an emergency, and I’ve declared an emergency for a temporary amount of time, I can invoke additional powers. No constitutional right, in my view, including my oath, is intended to be absolute. There are restrictions on free speech. There are restrictions on my freedoms in this emergency. This eleven year old and all these parents who have lost all these children, they deserve my attention to have the debate about whether or not in an emergency, we can create a safer environment. Because what about their constitutional rights? I took an oath to uphold those, too. And if we ignore this growing problem without being bold, I’ve said to every other New Mexican, your rights are subrogated to theirs. And they are not in my view.
Reporter: Wait a minute, you’re talking about crimes. There are already laws against the crime.
Grisham: But again, if I’m unsafe, who’s standing up for that right? If this crime is so out of control, somebody should do something. I’m doing as much as I know to do.
Reporter: Madam Governor, do you really think that criminals are going to hear this message and not carry a gun in Albuquerque on the streets for 30 days?
Governor Lujan Grisham says her duty to uphold her oath to the constitution is “not absolute” pic.twitter.com/Mla4rcNXMX
— Beau Hightower (@beauhightowerdn) September 8, 2023
By issuing a sweeping public health order that suspends the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens in Bernalillo County, Gov. Grisham effectively sidesteps the actual causes of gun violence and drug abuse. There’s no evidence to suggest that legal gun owners are contributing to these violent crimes. Instead, this decision disproportionately impacts those who rely on their Second Amendment rights for self-defense, potentially leaving them vulnerable.