New Mexico’s governor just temporarily banned the public carrying of firearms in Albuquerque. Here’s what you need to know

CNN  — 

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an emergency order banning both open and concealed firearms in Albuquerque and surrounding Bernalillo County on Friday, setting off a stream of backlash and legal challenges.

The ban is part of a public health emergency declaration over gun violence and drug abuse. The Democratic governor cited the killings of a 13-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy as well as two May mass shootings in the state in the declaration.

The order includes a 30-day suspension of open and concealed carry laws in Bernalillo County and a ban on the carrying of guns on state property, including state buildings, schools and some parks.

Experts say it will likely do more to test the waters around gun control policies than it will to directly stop gun violence.

When asked during a Friday news conference whether she believes the move will stop criminals in Albuquerque from carrying a gun on the streets, Lujan Grisham flatly said, “No.”

“But here’s what I do think – it’s a pretty resounding message to everybody else in that community to report a crime, to tell us what’s going on, to aid law enforcement to do something different,” she said.

What does the order cover?

“In New Mexico, anybody who can legally own a gun can carry it openly, so this affects anyone who can legally own a gun,” said Stephen Gutowski, CNN contributor and founder of The Reload, an independent firearm-focused publication.

The order makes exceptions for security guards and other law enforcement officials. People with permits to carry firearms are still allowed to have them on private property, as long as they are transported in a locked box with a trigger lock, or “some other mechanism that renders the gun incapable of being fired,” the order states.

It also directs state officials to conduct monthly inspections of firearm dealers.

The ban went into effect immediately, but local law enforcement has pushed back, leaving enforcement up to state police. The order directs state police to add officers in Albuquerque, with funding allotted for overtime.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said Lujan Grisham made it clear that state police will handle civil violations of the order, which could result in fines of up to $5,000 for violators.

CNN has reached out to New Mexico State Police to inquire about whether and how the department intends to enforce the order.

“While I understand and appreciate the urgency, the temporary ban challenges the foundation of our Constitution, which I swore an oath to uphold,” Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said in a statement.

The order will be in effect for 30 days – if it survives the legal challenges over the next month.

Is there precedent?

While a number of states have seen restrictions on places where guns can be carried in public, there hasn’t been a “total carry ban” like this, according to Gutowski.

And while other officials have tried to pass gun restrictions through legislation – with ensuing legal challenges in many instances – experts say Lujan Grisham’s order is bolder and broader than many of those efforts.

In 2020, former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam successfully issued a temporary ban on firearms on state Capitol grounds ahead of a gun rights rally where threats of violence were expected.

Some governors, including former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, have also declared gun violence a public health issue, but as a way of securing funding to curb its impact.

New York City managed to designate Times Square a “gun-free zone” last year.

It remains to be seen what kind of precedent Lujan Grisham’s order will set for future gun control efforts, but some fear there is an inherent risk in the bold move.

“You risk this backfiring in a way that’s going to make people less amenable to supporting gun control policies,” CNN contributor Jennifer Mascia, a senior news writer with The Trace, an independent news operation dedicated to covering America’s gun violence epidemic, said.

What’s the response been?

Lujan Grisham said she welcomed debate over the order when she announced it Friday, and that debate has ensued.

While the order has received support from some residents and advocacy groups, it has also seen backlash from gun-rights supporters and groups.

Dozens of New Mexico residents came out against the order Sunday afternoon, openly carrying guns during a protest.

Lujan Grisham did acknowledge the order would be a “pinch” on responsible gun owners.

“It’s a sacrifice that allows everyone else to get their arms around a growing, significant problem,” she said.

Republican state representatives John Block and Stefani Lord have even called for the governor to be impeached.

And some groups and advocates that have historically supported restrictions on guns have expressed concern over how the ban was implemented.

“I support gun safety, but there is no such thing as a state public health emergency exception to the U.S. Constitution,” Parkland high school shooting survivor and March For Our Lives co-founder David Hogg said in a statement.

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California also called the ban unconstitutional.

“I support gun safety laws. However, this order from the Governor of New Mexico violates the U.S. Constitution,” he said in a statement.

Lujan Grisham’s order is already facing several legal challenges, with groups arguing she is pushing the boundaries of her executive power and infringing on Second Amendment rights.

The National Association for Gun Rights filed a lawsuit against Lujan Grisham and the state’s health secretary this weekend, asking for an immediate injunction to stop the order from being enforced. The Gun Owners of America lobby group also filed a lawsuit against Lujan Grisham and other state officials.

An additional lawsuit from New Mexico state Republicans is expected.

Gun legislation experts point to the Supreme Court’s decision in last year’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen for context. In 2022, the court struck down a New York gun law that restricted the right to concealed carry outside the home, declaring that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to carry a gun in public for self-defense.

“I think gun rights advocates look at this order and see it as in such conflict with Supreme Court precedent, that they feel they could all win,” Gutowski said.

The governor is prepared to fight the legal challenges to her decision, Caroline Sweeney, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham, said in a statement Sunday.

“If she’s able to win in court over this, then that severely undermines the Supreme Court’s precedent,” Gutowski said. “I think it’s very unlikely that’ll happen, but if it does happen, it would be very significant.”

CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey, Conor Powell and Andy Rose contributed to this report.


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