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The New Mexico Firearm Ban
Sabrina Falkowsky

Sep 21, 2023

What is the most effective way to curb gun deaths? For New Mexico’s governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, potential lies in placing a thirty day ban on open and concealed carry firearms in Bernalillo County: home of Albuquerque, the state’s most populous city.

Albuquerque, the city best known for hit television show Breaking Bad, is also known for high rates of gun violence. The governor announced a public health order on September 8, 2023, targeting gun deaths and illegal drug use in Albuquerque. The initial public health order would place a ban on both open and concealed carry in Bernalillo county for thirty days. In a press release, Governor Lujan Grisham cited the deaths of three children from July to September, all under the age of fourteen, as her primary motivation for this public health order.

As of 2020, Albuquerque ranked within the ten most violent cities in the United States, and New Mexico ranks sixth for gun deaths per capita in the country. In 2021, the city had a gun death rate of 16.2 deaths per 100,000 people, significantly higher than the national average of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 people. An estimated 36% of New Mexicans own at least one firearm and the state has one of the top five gun per capita rates in the country, numbers which don't account for gifted or illegally obtained firearms.

On September 13, 2023, U.S. District Court Judge David H. Urias temporarily blocked the firearm ban, citing a violation of the Supreme Court decision in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case, which ruled that individuals have the right to carry a firearm outside of the home for self-defense. The temporary restraining order will remain in place until October 3, when the court will hold a hearing on the public health order. Many Republican lawmakers and gun rights lobbyists across the United States have spoken out against Governor Lujan Grisham’s public health order, labeling her action as unconstitutional. Even state Attorney General Raúl Torrez, another New Mexico Democrat, has stated that he will not be able to defend the firearm ban. 

Along with the political dissent to Governor Lujan Grisham’s public health order, many New Mexicans oppose the firearm ban. Gun owners in Albuquerque held a small protest on Sunday, September 10, openly carrying their firearms through Old Town. While gun owners and gun rights activists are more outspoken, many gun control supporters also oppose a simple thirty-day firearm ban. Albuquerque’s mayor, Tim Keller, called instead for a special legislative session to address not only gun crime in Albuquerque, but also the fixing of the criminal justice system and implementing mental health resources to attack the roots of crime in the city. 

In response to public and political backlash, the governor amended the public health order, narrowing the scope to public parks and playgrounds. This emphasizes the intention of her order: she wants to restrict firearms around children. Judge Urias’s restraining order on the firearm ban will still hold, even with the amendment, until the hearing on October 3.

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