On Wednesday night, a road-rage shooting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, killed an eleven-year-old boy and gravely wounded a 20-something relative:
Police Chief Harold Medina said in a news conference Thursday morning a family leaving the stadium after a baseball game became involved in an altercation with people riding in another vehicle over a traffic infraction, such as an improper U-turn, just past the intersection of Avenida César Chávez and University Boulevard. Someone in the second vehicle fired 17 shots, the chief said.
…Medina noted this is the fifth fatal road-rage shooting in Albuquerque in 2023. It comes after an Aug. 13 drive-by shooting in a mobile home park killed a 5-year-old girl as she was sleeping [Cynthia Miller, “Albuquerque Police Investigate Road-Rage Shooting That Killed 11-Year-Old,” Santa Fe New Mexican, 2023.09.07].
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is done with thoughts and prayers. She recognizes that epidemic gun violence, coupled with rampant drug abuse, erodes New Mexicans’ fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness:
As I said yesterday, the time for standard measures has passed….And 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 [Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, press release, 2023.09.08].
To reëstablish the proper balance of rights in her state, Governor Lujan Grisham has declared a public health emergency suspending the right to carry firearms in public in Albuquerque and surrounding Bernalillo County until October 6. The public health emergency order from the New Mexico Department of Health deals with guns and drugs; here are the relevant gun provisions:
- No person, other than a law enforcement officer or licensed security officer, shall possess a firearm, as defined in NMSA 1978, Section 30-7-4.1, either openly or concealed, within cities or counties averaging 1,000 or more violent crimes per 100,000 residents er year since 2021 according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s UNiform Crime Reporting Program AND more than 90 firearm-related emergency department visits per 100,000 residents from July 2022 to June 2023 according to the New Mexico Department of Public Health, except:
- On private property owned or immediately controlled by the person;
- On private property that is not open to the public with the express permission of the person who owns or immediately controls such property;
- While on the premises of a licensed firearms dealer or gunsmith for the purpose of lawful transfer or repair of a firearm;
- While engaged in the legal use of a firearm at a properly licensed firing range or sport shooting competition venue; or
- While traveling to or from a location listed in Paragraphs (1) through (4) of this section; provided that the firearm is in a locked container or locked with a firearm safety device that renders the firearm inoperable, such as a trigger lock.
- The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department shall conduct monthly inspections of licensed firearms dealers in the State to ensure compliance with all sales and storage laws.
- The Department of Health shall, within 20 days, compile and issue a comprehensive report on gunshot victims presenting at hospitals in New Mexico, which shall include (if available): demographic data of gunshot victims, including age, gender, race, and ethnicity; data on gunshot victim’s healthcare outcomes; the brand and caliber or the firearm used; the general circumstances leading to the injury; the impact of gunshot victims on New Mexico’s healthcare system; and any other pertinent information.
- No person, other than a law enforcement officer or licensed security officer, shall possess a firearm on state property, public schools, and public parks [Patrick M. Allen, New Mexico Secretary of Health, “Public Health Emergency Order Imposing Temporary Firearm Restrictions, Drug Monitoring, and Other Public Safety Measures,” 2023.09.08].
The order also entitles every firearm owner to one free trigger lock via the non-profit New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. The Governor’s executive order makes $750,000 available to pay for those trigger locks and cover other costs related to the public health emergency.
It is important to note that Governor Lujan Grisham isn’t coming for anyone’s guns. This order does not authorize the state to go into anyone’s home and take any guns. Albuquerque residents may continue to keep and bear arms for self-defense at home. They may go to gun shops to buy new guns and repair their old guns. They may go to shooting ranges and practice their gun skills. They may even bring their guns to the houses of friendly neighbors who are cognizant of and welcome their armed state.
Gun owners just can’t walk or drive around town with guns on their hips or lying on the front seat ready to draw and fire. They can’t transport a firearm without securing it so it can’t be whipped out in a moment of road rage. And they can’t carry a gun in any condition, into a state office, a school, or a park, where their guns do no good anyway.
Disturbed as he is by the gun violence plaguing his city, Albuquerque Police Chief Medina, who appeared alongside the Governor when she announced this order Friday morning, will not be enforcing these gun restrictions; the state will:
“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” [Nicholas Gilmore, “Governor Bans Carrying Guns in Albuquerque After 11-Year-Old Killed,” Santa Fe New Mexican, updated 2023.09.09].
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen is queasy about the order:
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” [Morgan Lee, “New Mexico Governor Issues Order Suspending the Right to Carry Firearms in Public Across Albuquerque,” AP, 2023.09.09].
The National Association for Gun Rights is already suing to block the order, and New Mexico State House Republicans say they’ll pile on, too:
The National Association for Gun Rights and Foster Haines, a group member and Albuquerque resident, are arguing the order, which was announced Friday and bans carrying firearms in public in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County for 30 days, is unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen.
The June 2022 ruling, which upended New York’s strict handgun licensing laws, “held that any gun regulation that does not fall into the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment is unconstitutional,” the association said in a news release.
Lujan Grisham “is throwing up a middle finger to the Constitution and the Supreme Court,” Dudley Brown, president of the gun-rights group, said in a statement. “Her executive order is in blatant disregard for Bruen. She needs to be held accountable for stripping the God-given rights of millions away with the stroke of a pen.”
…“The outrage from New Mexicans and Americans across the country reveals how precious our rights are and we will not back down from defending and fighting for what makes the United States of America a unique experiment,” House Minority Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, said in a statement. “This country and our state were founded on principles of freedom and democracy, and one political figure will not erase our shared history” [Gabe Stern and Scott Sonner, “Gun-Rights Group Sues Lujan Grisham over Emergency Order Banning Firearms in Public,” AP via Santa Fe New Mexican, updated 2023.09.10].
Some New Mexico Republican legislators are threatening to impeach Governor Lujan Grisham for responding to a public health emergency. Once again, we see Republicans would rather sacrifice innocent lives for abstract and obsolete principles that don’t work they way Republicans claim they do than take action to solve real problems that are denying Americans real liberty.