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New Mexico governor’s gun ban draws bipartisan backlash

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is facing harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle over her recently issued order suspending certain gun rights in Albuquerque and its surrounding county.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, on Friday announced a 30-day ban on the right to carry open or concealed firearms in public in an effort to curb gun violence and illegal drug use in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. State police were tasked with enforcing the order, which carried fines for violations.

The announcement prompted a string of lawsuits and ignited opposition from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen, a Democrat, said Monday he would not enforce the ban, which he called “unconstitutional.”

This order will not do anything to curb gun violence other than punish law-abiding citizens from their constitutional right to self-defense,” Allen said at a news conference.

“It’s unconstitutional. So there’s no way we could enforce that order,” he added.

Police data shows that through Friday there were 76 homicide victims in Albuquerque, the state’s largest city.

“I don’t need a lecture on constitutionality from Sheriff Allen: what I need is action,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement in response to a request for comment.

“We’ve passed common-sense gun legislation, including red flag laws, domestic violence protections, a ban on straw purchases, and safe storage laws; dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to a fund specifically to help law enforcement hire and retain officers; increased penalties for violent offenders and provided massive support to intervention programs,” she added. “We’ve given you the tools, Sheriff Allen — now stop being squeamish about using them. I will not back down from doing what’s right and I will always put the safety of the people of New Mexico first.”

New Mexico was listed in 2021 among the top three states with the highest firearm mortality rates, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state that year had a firearm-related death rate of 27.8 deaths per 100,000 people, following Louisiana’s 29.1 and Mississippi’s 33.9.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., a member of the Congressional Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention, said that while he supported gun safety laws, Lujan Grisham’s order violated the Constitution.

“There is no such thing as a state public health emergency exception to the U.S. Constitution,” Lieu wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Lieu also referred to a Supreme Court decision last year that curtailed efforts to restrict gun rights by largely allowing the carrying of firearms in public.

“Whether or not we agree with it, the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding the Constitution are the law of the land,” he added.

Lujan Grisham responded on X: “Hey Ted, conceal and open carry are state laws that I have jurisdiction over.”

Republican state Reps. Stefani Lord and John Block blasted the order, calling for Lujan Grisham’s impeachment in a statement over the weekend.

“I have a newsflash for the Governor: The Second Amendment is an absolute right and so is my authority to impeach you for violating your oath to New Mexico and the United States,” Lord said.

Democratic state Sen. Joe Cervantes urged Lujan Grisham to rescind the order, arguing in a statement that an “unconstitutional approach undermines the important collaboration gun issues deserve, and the important role of a Governor to lead genuine reforms.”

Lujan Grisham has maintained that she has jurisdiction over state conceal and open carry laws while highlighting “unconscionable” gun-related deaths.

“When we’re afraid to be in crowds, to take our kids to school — when our very right to exist is threatened by the prospect of violence at every turn — something is wrong,” she said in a statement. “I’m not going to stop fighting for public safety until everyone is safe. Period.”

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