Serving the High Plains

Governor bans firearms in public in Bernalillo County

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a temporary ban on carrying guns in public in Bernalillo County and asked for federal help to address gun violence.

The governor and public safety leadership from across the state held a press conference Friday afternoon to announce a comprehensive public health order relating to gun violence.

On Thursday, Lujan Grisham issued an executive order declaring a public health emergency with regards to gun violence on Thursday. This was replaced by a more in-depth public health order released at Friday’s news conference.

The public health order restricts firearms in either open or concealed carry on public property for 30 days as a cooling off period, she said.

The change was made to open up more resources to help New Mexico get the gun violence issue under control, Lujan Grisham said.

“We need to use the power of a public health (order) in a state of emergency to access different levels, different resources, and different opportunities to keep New Mexicans safe,” Lujan Grisham said. “So that’s what’s changed today and we’re gonna keep doing this work very closely until we see dramatic additional productive changes in the state.”

The order does not apply to law enforcement officers or licensed security officers.

The move comes following the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy on his way home from a minor league baseball game Wednesday and the fatal shooting of a 4-year-old girl in her bed in August.

“These are disgusting acts of violence that have no place in our communities. As a mother and grandmother, I cannot fathom the depth of these losses, and their effects will be felt by families, friends and communities forever. I send my most sincere condolences to the loved ones of both of these children,” Lujan Grisham stated Thursday. “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.”

As to the order’s enforcement, Lujan Grisham said the penalty will be a low-level violation.

“When you violate a public health order, it’s the lowest level of violation, and that is an enforcement issue. But again, if this is upheld, and if no one challenges it, I’m happy not to have a challenge to all the people that are thinking about it. The point is this. We better have the debate about what’s necessary to reduce the number of particularly illegal firearms and our ability to go after bad actors,” Lujan Grisham said.

The emergency declaration came with opposition.

“It is unfortunate that the Governor has decided to politicize the death of an 11-year-old to push her anti-gun agenda,” House Republican Leader Ryan Lane of Aztec stated Thursday about the original declaration. “What’s likewise unfortunate is that with billions in revenue this state has not funded meaningful criminal justice reform including addressing reckless pre-trial release policies and behavioral health rehabilitation. The Democrat’s policies have created and exacerbated the crime crisis that is literally killing New Mexicans daily. It is unacceptable that it has taken this long to notice the number of everyday New Mexicans that are being affected by criminal violence.”

On Friday, Senate Republican Leader Greg Baca of Belen issued a statement about the new order.

“A child is murdered, the perpetrator is still on the loose, and what does the governor do? She throws the mayor of Albuquerque under the bus and then targets law-abiding citizens with an unconstitutional gun order,” Baca stated. "Tragically, this is what we have come to expect from an administration that refuses to take responsibility for the crime epidemic gripping our state. It is time for the governor to stop pointing fingers and admit that her soft-on-crime approach has failed and put the safety of all New Mexicans in great jeopardy.”

Along with the public health order, Lujan Grisham sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting Department of Justice assistance to help combat gun violence and human trafficking issues in New Mexico.

She said at the news conference she had not heard from Garland’s office but had contact with the White House.

President Joe Biden was in India for the G20 summit.

Lujan Grisham admitted there was a possibility for legal challenges to the new public health order.

“The purpose is to try and create a cooling off period while we figure out how we can better address public safety and gun violence. Now I am sure as I go through the rest of this, there’ll be a lot of questions about whether or not we think we have the legal rights to do that. I ensure that before you write this, there will be a legal challenge and I can’t tell you that we (will) win it given all of the different challenges to gun violence laws and restrictions on individual firearm access and control,” Lujan Grisham said at the press conference.

The public health order also directs:

— The state Regulation and Licensing Division to conduct monthly inspections of licensed firearm dealers to ensure compliance with all sales and storage laws.

— The state Department of Health, along with the state 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.

The orders went into effect immediately.