Democratic leaders in New Mexico failed to back Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s order to ban gun possession using public health provisions after the Daily Caller News Foundation contacted them for comment.
Grisham announced the order on Sept. 8, which bans the possession of firearms for 30 days outside of private residences in the city of Albuquerque and its encompassing Bernalillo County. After the order was widely criticized by advocates for gun control as well as the state’s attorney general, who questioned its constitutionality, the DCNF contacted New Mexico’s federal and state Democratic elected leaders about whether they supported the measure, of whom all but two did not respond.
“[W]e need to focus on solutions that are constitutional and enforceable. That’s what will save lives,” wrote Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, the state’s senior U.S. senator, in a statement shared with the DCNF. The order is widely held to be unconstitutional and violative of the Second Amendment.
BREAKING: New Mexico Attorney General tells the Governor that he won’t defend her carry ban, saying “I do not believe it passes constitutional muster.” pic.twitter.com/ORat27wAvn
— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) September 12, 2023
These concerns prompted Democratic Attorney General Raúl Torrez of New Mexico to decline to defend the order in court.
“I do not believe that the Emergency Order will have any meaningful impact on public safety, but, more importantly, I do not believe it passes constitutional muster,” wrote Torrez in a letter to Grisham that was published on Twitter, now known as X. “The Emergency Order will be found to violate both the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article II, Section 6 of the New Mexico Constitution.”
Torrez’s prediction proved correct after Judge David Urias of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico issued an injunction preventing the ban from taking effect, following five lawsuits against Grisham for the order. “Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits that their Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights to publicly carry a firearm for self-defense will be violated if the [order] remains in effect,” Urias wrote.
Amid legal and political challenges, Grisham announced on Friday that she would amend her order, limiting its scope to public parks and places where children gather.
Other than Heinrich, only Democratic Rep. Gabe Vasquez of New Mexico’s second congressional district responded to the DCNF. His office shared a statement issued where he signals a departure from Grisham’s policy.
“We must address this crisis by keeping New Mexico families safe while also supporting solutions that are constitutional and protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Vasquez wrote, appearing to contrast constitutional measures with Grisham’s order.
However, Democratic Sheriff John Allen of Bernalillo County criticized Grisham for her decision — stating he was wary of placing deputies in “civil liability” conflicts — while Democratic state Sen. Joesph Cervantes of Las Cruces called on Grisham to rescind the measure.
“[T]his kind of approach leads to the over-policing of our communities, racial profiling, and increased misery in the lives of already marginalized people,” wrote an official of the American Civil Liberties Union in a statement about the governor’s order.
Apart from Heinrich and Vasquez, no other Democratic elected leader from New Mexico responded to questions. The DCNF contacted Lt. Gov. Henry Morales, Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico — who is Grisham’s cousin, both being members of the Lujan political family — Reps. Teresa Fernandez and Melanie Stansbury, State House Speaker Javier Martinez, State Sen. President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart, State Sen. Majority Leader Peter Wirth, State Sen. Majority Whip Michael Padilla, State House Majority Leader Gail Chasey and State House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski.
“No constitutional right, in my view, including my oath, is intended to be absolute,” Grisham had said at a press conference after the order’s announcement.
Grisham did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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