New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, issued an emergency order on Friday suspending the right to carry guns in public across Albuquerque and the surrounding Bernalillo County for at least 30 days following recent instances of gun violence.
The governor said she expects the order to face legal challenges but that she believed she needed to act in response to recent gun-related deaths, such as an 11-year-old boy who was shot and killed outside a minor league baseball stadium earlier this week.
"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," Lujan Grisham said in a statement.
The suspension was classified as an emergency public health order, and applies to open and concealed carry in most public places, excluding police and licensed security guards. The restriction is connected to a threshold for violent crime rates met only by the Albuquerque area.
Violators could face civil penalties and a fine of up to $5,000, the governor's spokeswoman Caroline Sweeney said. The governor said state police are responsible for enforcing the order, but she acknowledged not all law enforcement officials – including the district attorney for the Albuquerque area – agree with it.
"I welcome the debate and fight about how to make New Mexicans safer," Lujan Grisham said at a news conference.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said in a statement Friday night that he has concerns about the order but is prepared to cooperate to address 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."
Lujan Grisham cited several recent shootings in Albuquerque when issuing the order, including the Wednesday shooting outside the Albuquerque Isotopes' field that left 11-year-old Froyland Villegas dead and a woman critically wounded. The two were inside a vehicle that was sprayed with bullets as people were leaving the game.
On Aug. 13, 5-year-old Galilea Samaniego was shot and killed as she slept when four teens entered a mobile home community in two stolen vehicles and opened fire on the home. The girl was shot in the head and died from her injuries at a hospital.
Another deadly shooting took place in August in Taos County when a 14-year-old boy used his father's gun to shoot and kill his friend, 13-year-old Amber Archuleta, while they were at the boy's home.
State Sen. Greg Baca, the Senate's top-ranked Republican, denounced the governor's firearm suspension.
"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," Baca said.
Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, praised the governor’s order as necessary in order to reduce gun violence.
"If it saves one life, then it’s worth doing," Viscoli said.
Since 2019, Lujan Grisham has signed several bills restricting gun access, including a 2020 "red flag" law allowing law enforcement to ask a court to temporarily remove guns from people who they believe might hurt themselves or others. The governor also signed a ban on gun possession for people under permanent protective orders for domestic violence.
The governor's order on Friday also directs state regulators to conduct monthly inspections of firearms dealers statewide to ensure compliance with gun laws.
The state Department of Health will conduct a report on gunshot victims at New Mexico hospitals that includes age, race, gender and ethnicity, as well as the brand and caliber of firearm involved and other general circumstances.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.