In a highly contentious move, Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has declared gun violence a public health emergency in the wake of several tragic incidents, including the shooting deaths of a thirteen-year-old girl on July 28, a five-year-old girl on August 14, and an eleven-year-old boy on September 6.
Of particular concern in this public health directive is the immediate suspension of open and concealed carry laws in Bernalillo County. This action directly encroaches upon the constitutionally protected right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms. The Governor has made exceptions for licensed security personnel and law enforcement officers, but by issuing such a sweeping public health order, Governor Grisham seems to sidestep the root causes of gun violence and drug-related issues. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that responsible gun owners contribute to these tragic crimes. Instead, this decision disproportionately affects individuals who rely on their Second Amendment rights for self-defense, potentially leaving them vulnerable.
The public health order encompasses various provisions, including monthly inspections of licensed firearm dealers by the Regulation and Licensing Division to ensure compliance with sales and storage laws. Additionally, the Department of Health, in conjunction with the Environment Department, will commence wastewater testing for illegal substances like fentanyl at schools.
Moreover, the Department of Health will compile and release a comprehensive report on gunshot victims receiving treatment in New Mexico hospitals. This report will include demographic data such as age, gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as information on healthcare outcomes, firearm specifications, circumstances leading to injuries, and the impact on New Mexico’s healthcare system.
The order further prohibits firearms on state property, including state buildings and schools, extending to educational facilities frequented by children, like parks. Funds for overtime have been allocated to add officers in Albuquerque by the State Police.
Governor Lujan Grisham defended her decision, stating, “The time for standard measures has passed. When New Mexicans fear for their safety in public places, when they worry about taking their children to school, or attending a baseball game, their very right to exist is threatened by pervasive violence. Something is profoundly wrong.”
She acknowledged that the restrictions would pose challenges and welcomed the debate on enhancing safety. However, when questioned about whether law enforcement could address the issue effectively, she argued that the order sends a statewide message to leverage resources and increase arrests, particularly for jurisdictions that handle these matters differently.
Critics raised concerns about the constitutionality of suspending concealed carry permits and questioned the effectiveness of these measures on criminals who may not heed such orders. Governor Grisham emphasized her commitment to addressing the problem and highlighted the need to consider the constitutional rights of all citizens, stating that no right should be considered absolute in the face of a public safety emergency. She argued that taking bold action is necessary to protect the rights of those who are increasingly feeling unsafe on the streets due to rampant criminal activity.