Governor bans carrying guns in Albuquerque after 11-year-old killed

Sep. 8—Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday announced a new public health order that, she said, will prohibit people from carrying firearms, either open or concealed, in Albuquerque and throughout Bernalillo County for the next 30 days, regardless of whether they have a permit.

The order takes effect immediately. It states "no person, other than a law enforcement officer or licensed security officer, shall possess a firearm ... either openly or concealed, within cities or counties averaging 1,000 or more violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year since 2021."

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, issued an executive order Thursday evening declaring gun violence a public health emergency. During a news conference Friday, she said she expects legal challenges to the new public health order and expressed uncertainty about whether the order would prevail in court.

The order currently applies only to the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, Lujan Grisham said, and can only be enforced not by local authorities but by New Mexico State Police, whose presence in the state's largest city would be "significant" over the next month.

Violating the order would likely be a misdemeanor, Lujan Grisham said, and it will not apply to private property or at a licensed gun dealer or shooting range. While traveling, the order states, firearms must be locked in a container or with a trigger lock.

Lujan Grisham's order also calls upon the state Department of Health to compile and issue "a comprehensive report on gunshot victims presenting at hospitals in New Mexico."

A separate order calls for some measures to combat substance abuse as well, such as a joint program by the Department of Health and the state Environmental Department to conduct wastewater testing for drugs like fentanyl at public schools.

After the 30-day period, Lujan Grisham said her administration "will either amend or remove or adjust" the order depending on circumstances.

The declaration came after several recent shooting deaths of children in Albuquerque, including one Wednesday in which an 11-year-old boy was killed near the Isotopes' baseball park in Albuquerque. Police said the incident appeared to be a case of road rage, the fifth such fatal incident in 2023.

Lujan Grisham said the order was, in part, to spur a "strong debate" about how to properly address gun violence, remarking people should be horrified "that so many young people and so many individuals with no training and reckless, criminal behavior are openly carrying firearms in our community."

"I have to take a tough, direct stand," Lujan Grisham said, "or basically, I'm ignoring the fact that we lost an 11-year-old."

Lujan Grisham was flanked Friday afternoon by public safety officials from Albuquerque and Bernalillo County and state police. She acknowledged there was disagreement in the group regarding the enforceability of the gun order.

"The governor made it clear that state law enforcement, and not APD, will be responsible for enforcement of civil violations of the order," Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said in a message to his officers Friday night. "Our officers at APD will continue to focus on the enforcement of criminal laws and arresting the criminals who are driving violent crime in the city."

Conservatives immediately criticized Lujan Grisham, calling the order a violation of the state and U.S. constitutions. Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis called on the governor to rescind the order, saying in a statement that it would make Albuquerque more dangerous.

"If the governor does not rescind this order, I'm calling on law enforcement to follow the constitution and not unconstitutional edicts from a wannabe dictator," Lewis said in a statement Friday. "Law enforcement officers took an oath to defend the constitution."

Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, slammed Lujan Grisham's order as "unconstitutional" in a statement from Senate Republicans, saying her "soft-on-crime approach has failed and put the safety of all New Mexicans in great jeopardy."

"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 said Friday evening.

Lujan Grisham has repeatedly called for stricter gun laws, including calling on lawmakers to pass an assault weapons ban in her State of the State address in January. Numerous gun control measures were introduced during this year's session, although most didn't make it past committee hearings; one that did pass penalizes adults who don't store their firearms properly if they get into the hands of children who then use them. The governor has said she plans to try again next year to get an assault weapons ban passed.

After the initial 30-day period is over, Lujan Grisham said she would revisit the order in light of more data, potentially extending it or modifying its terms.

"I realize, it is a pinch, and then some, on responsible gun owners," Lujan Grisham said Friday. "It's a sacrifice that allows everyone else to get their arms around the growing, significant problem."