SANTA FE, N.M. | 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 amid a spate of gun violence.
The Democratic governor said she is expecting legal challenges but felt 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 is tied to a threshold for violent crime rates that only the Albuquerque area currently meets. Police and licensed security guards are exempt from the temporary ban.
Violators could face civil penalties and a fine of up to $5,000, said Caroline Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the governor.
Under the order, people with concealed carry permits still are allowed to transport guns to some private locations, such as a gun range or gun store — provided that the firearm has a trigger lock or some other container or mechanism that makes it impossible to discharge.
Lujan Grisham acknowledged that 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 leading 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. 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,” Allen said.
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.
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,” said Sen. Greg Baca of Belen.
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 its legal fate is uncertain.
“If it saves one life, then it’s worth doing,” she said.
Since 2019, Lujan Grisham has signed a raft of legislation that restricts access to guns, including a 2020 “red flag” law that allows police or sheriff’s deputies to ask a court to temporarily take away guns from people who might hurt themselves or others, an extension of background-check requirements to nearly all private gun sales and a ban on firearms possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.
_ 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.