A federal judge has blocked New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s emergency public health order restricting gun rights following a few shootings.
“This was inevitable for an order that everyone—except, apparently, the governor herself—knows is insanely unconstitutional,” Amy Swearer, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in a statement Thursday after the judge’s order Wednesday night. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“At this point, the only remaining questions are how much taxpayer money Gov. Grisham will waste defending the indefensible, and whether New Mexicans will choose to hold her accountable for her actions in any meaningful sense,” Swearer added.
Lujan Grisham issued what she described as an emergency public health order Friday, suspending the right to open-carry or concealed-carry guns in public places based on a statistical threshold for violent crime that applied only to Albuquerque and the surrounding area. She cited recent shootings around the state in which children had died.
Even Democrats and gun control advocates have condemned Lujan Grisham’s edict. New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez, a fellow Democrat, said Tuesday that he would not defend the public health order against lawsuits because he does “not believe it passes constitutional muster.”
U.S. District Court Judge David Urias, an appointee of President Joe Biden, granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday in five separate lawsuits alleging that the public health order violates the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Urias ruled that the plaintiffs—gun owners and gun rights organizations—would likely succeed on the merits of their case. The judge cited key Supreme Court precedents, such as District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022), which clarified that the Second Amendment and the 14th Amendment protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense.
He ordered Lujan Grisham and state officials not to enforce the public health order’s first section, which states that “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.” The judge’s order had gone into effect at 2:55 p.m. Wednesday.
Lujan Grisham responded to the order by pledging to “never stop fighting” on the issue.
“I refuse to be resigned to the status quo, and I will never stop fighting to prevent other families from enduring these tragedies,” she said in a statement Wednesday. The governor also suggested that while her order has been enjoined, it succeeded in drawing attention to her issues.
“Over the past four days, I’ve seen more attention on resolving the crisis of gun violence than I have in the past four years,” she said. “Now is the time to bring clarity of purpose: New Mexicans must again feel safe walking home from school, driving to the grocery store, or leaving their hometown baseball stadium.”
Gun rights groups that sued Lujan Grisham celebrated the ruling.
“We are thrilled to win a temporary restraining order today from a federal judge blocking the governor’s wildly unconstitutional public health gun ban,” Hannah Hill, executive director of the National Foundation for Gun Rights (the legal branch of the National Association for Gun Rights), said in a statement Wednesday. “This ruling emphasizes what our legal team has said all along: There’s not a shadow of an excuse under the Supreme Court’s Heller and Bruen precedents for an executive to suspend the United States Constitution.”
“We are ecstatic that Judge Urias agreed with us that Governor [Lujan] Grisham simply can’t trash the Constitution whenever she sees fit,” Erich Pratt, senior vice president at Gun Owners of America, said in a statement Wednesday. “Gun Owners of America will continue pressing to extend this Temporary Restraining Order into a permanent order. And we will not rest until all those in New Mexico who played a role in this action are held accountable for this gross assault on our rights.”
As Swearer, the Heritage expert, has noted, concealed-carry permit holders are overwhelmingly not responsible for violent crime in New Mexico or any other state. They are, in fact, incredibly law-abiding and peaceable as a group, which makes sense, given that people who invest a lot of time and money into carrying firearms in a lawful manner aren’t typically eager to commit actions that would see those rights stripped from them.
As for Lujan Grisham’s suggestion that New Mexicans will feel safer in the absence of firearms, Swearer notes that Americans use firearms defensively and can make their communities safer by doing so.
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