NRA files lawsuit challenging New Mexico governor's unconstitutional gun carry ban

The National Rifle Association on Sept. 14 led a coalition of parties in a legal challenge against New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Department of Health Secretary Patrick Allen’s unconstitutional orders banning the carrying of firearms in Bernalillo County and on all state property under the guise of a public health emergency.

Last Thursday, Governor Lujan Grisham issued an executive order declaring that “a state of public emergency exists throughout the State due to gun violence.” A similar executive order was issued declaring a state of public health emergency due to drug abuse.” The following day, Secretary Allen invoked emergency powers under those two executive orders, and issued a public health order prohibiting possessing a firearm, “either openly or concealed,” within Bernalillo County and on all state property and mandating that licensed firearms dealers be inspected on a monthly basis. (The orders also require that a program be developed for testing wastewater for “illicit substances … at all public schools,” and suspend a program designed to rehabilitate juveniles without imprisoning them.) Violating the Order carries a fine of up to $5,000.

These orders were issued despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment protects a right to carry a firearm outside the home. But even worse, the New Mexico Constitution also guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. New Mexican courts have proclaimed that the right to keep and bear arms “stands shoulder to shoulder with the most basic guarantees of individual liberty against the power of the state.” New Mexican courts have also held that a locality cannot ban carrying of firearms in public. Such a ban “purports to completely prohibit the ‘right to bear arms.’”

Lujan Grisham nevertheless refused to let the Constitution stand in her way. She was told that these orders were unconstitutional by several other officials but refused to hear it. Instead, she said that her oath to uphold the Constitution was “not absolute.” That is absolutely wrong. Justice Potter Stewart said it best 50 years ago: “The needs of [the government] stand in constant tension with the Constitution’s protections of the individual against certain exercises of official power. It is precisely the predictability of these pressures that counsels a resolute loyalty to constitutional safeguards.”

These orders are also a power grab in violation of the state Constitution, which vests legislative authority in the legislature. New Mexico law generally allows law-abiding individuals to carry firearms openly or concealed with a license. (The legislature also rejected a bill to test for illicit substances in public schools and supported the juvenile probation program that the order now suspends.) Lujan Grisham has a constitutional duty to execute state law — and the Constitution. She must allow people to exercise the legal rights granted to them. There are no exceptions. The Constitution does not take a vacation during so-called emergencies. New Mexico’s Public Health Emergency Response Act (“PHERA”) and the New Mexico Supreme Court directly told the governor this in Grisham v. Reeb: “PHERA’s purpose is to … ‘provide the state of New Mexico with the ability to manage public health emergencies in a manner that protects civil rights and the liberties of individual persons.’”

These orders cannot go unchallenged. That is why NRA challenged them directly in the New Mexico Supreme Court. The case is captioned Ambdor v. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Other parties to the lawsuit include the Republican party of New Mexico, Libertarian Party of New Mexico, several members of the legislature, law-abiding gun owners, law-enforcement professionals, and an FFL who are all affected by the orders.

© 2023 National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action. This may be reproduced. This may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.

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