Federal judge blocks New Mexico ban on carrying firearms in public

A federal judge has blocked part of an emergency order from New Mexico’s governor that sought to temporarily ban residents from carrying firearms in public in the state’s largest metro area.

The ruling on 13 September from US District Judge David Urias, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, follows a flurry of legal challenges seeking to reverse the order, issued just days earlier, that Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham enacted in response to a wave of gun violence in the state.

Her emergency order on 7 September, which went into immediate effect, temporarily suspended open and concealed carry laws in Albuquerque and its surrounding Bernalillo County for at least 30 days, with some exceptions, for what she called a “cooling off period” after a pair of recent mass shootings and the deaths of three children in the state this summer.

The order also directed a state agency to conduct monthly inspections of licensed firearm dealers and ordered the state health department to assemble a report on gunshot victims at hospitals across the state, among other measures.

Her novel approach to combatting the proliferation of firearms and a growing gun violence crisis drew immediate outrage, armed protests and legal challenges from Republican officials, right-wing activists and Second Amendment groups, and triggered a wave of abuse and threats of violence on social media.

In her announcement last week, the governor said she expected a legal fight questioning the constitutionality of her order to follow, “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.”

Gun Owners Foundation, Gun Owners of America Inc, the National Association for Gun Rights and We The Patriots USA filed several legal challenges on behalf of several Bernalillo County gun owners. On Wednesday, Judge Urias heard arguments from plaintiffs seeking a temporary restraining order that blocks the governor’s measure.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen, both Democrats, were wary of the governor’s order and heightened Second Amendment scrutiny on the state in its wake. They instead urged her to convene a special legislative session among state lawmakers focusing exclusively on gun violence.

“Albuquerque families can’t afford political debates that distract us from fighting violent crime,” Mr Keller wrote in a letter to the governor.

The marquee at a gun shop in Los Ranchos, New Mexico on 11 September protests Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s order banning residents from carrying firearms in public. (AP)
The marquee at a gun shop in Los Ranchos, New Mexico on 11 September protests Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s order banning residents from carrying firearms in public. (AP)

Roughly 500 people are killed by gun violence every year in New Mexico, which ranks sixth among US states for gun deaths per capita, according to advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Firearms were used in the vast majority of Abuquerque’s 76 homicides this year, according to the city’s police department.

During a press conference this week, Sheriff Allen called the governor’s order unconstitutional, adding that “there’s no way we can enforce” it.

“My question to law enforcement is: Where are you?” the governor told CNN.

“If you’re not going to stand up for these kids and really test as hard as you can getting fewer guns and dealing with gun violence in a meaningful way, then you’re basically saying that you won’t be responsible to protect the citizens of the state,” she added.