SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday issued an emergency order suspending the right to carry firearms in public across Albuquerque and the surrounding county for at least 30 days in response to a spate of gun violence.
The Democratic governor said she expects legal challenges but was compelled to act in response to gun deaths, including the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy outside a minor league baseball stadium this week.
The firearms suspension, classified as an emergency public health order, applies to open and concealed carry in most public place, from city sidewalks to urban recreational parks.
The restriction is tied to a threshold for violent crime rates currently only met by the Albuquerque area. Police and licensed security guards are exempt from the temporary ban.
Violators could face civil penalties and a fine of up to $5,000, gubernatorial spokeswoman Caroline Sweeney said. The governor wants the order enforced by Albuquerque police, county sheriff’s deputies and state police.
Under the order, residents still can transport guns to some private locations, such as a gun range or gun store, provided the firearm has a trigger lock or some other container or mechanism making it impossible to discharge.
Lujan Grisham acknowledged not all law enforcement officials were on board with her decision.
“I welcome the debate and fight about how to make New Mexicans safer,” she said at a news conference, flanked by law enforcement officials, including the district attorney for the Albuquerque area.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said in a statement late Friday that he has reservations about the order but is ready to cooperate to tackle gun violence.
“While I understand and appreciate the urgency, the temporary ban challenges the foundation of our constitution, which I swore an oath to uphold,” Allen said. “I am 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.”
Lujan Grisham referenced several recent shootings in Albuquerque in issuing the order. Among them was a suspected road rage shooting Wednesday outside a minor league baseball stadium that killed 11-year-old Froyland Villegas and critically wounded a woman as their vehicle was peppered with bullets while people left the game.
Last month, 5-year-old Galilea Samaniego was fatally shot while asleep in a motor home. Four teens entered the mobile home community in two stolen vehicles early on Aug. 13 and opened fire on the trailer, according to police. The girl was struck in the head and later died at a hospital.
The governor also cited an August shooting death in Taos County of 13-year-old Amber Archuleta. A 14-year-old boy shot and killed the girl with his father’s gun while they were at his home, authorities said.
“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 in a statement.
The top-ranked Republican in the state Senate swiftly denounced the governor’s actions Friday to restrict guns as a way to stem violent crime.
“A child is murdered, the perpetrator is still on the loose, and what does the governor do? She … targets law-abiding citizens with an unconstitutional gun order,” Sen. Greg Baca of Belen said.
Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, applauded the governor’s order as a courageous and necessary step to curbing gun violence, even if the measure’s legal fate is uncertain.
“If it saves one life, then it’s worth doing,” Viscoli said.
Since 2019, Lujan Grisham has signed a raft of legislation restricting access to guns, including a 2020 “red flag” law allowing police or sheriff’s deputies to ask a court to temporarily remove guns from people who might hurt themselves or others, an extension of background-check requirements to nearly all private gun sales.
She also signed a ban on firearms possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.
Friday’s order directs state regulators to conduct monthly inspections of firearms dealers statewide to ensure compliance with gun laws.
The state Department of Health will compile a report on gunshot victims at New Mexico hospitals that includes age, race, gender and ethnicity, along with the brand and caliber of firearm involved and other general circumstances.
Associated Press writers Scott Sonner and Gabe Stern in Reno, Nevada, Terry Tang in Phoenix and Rio Yamat in Las Vegas contributed to this story. Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America places journalists in local newsrooms across the country to report on undercovered issues.