New Mexico judges hear challenge to public health ban on guns in public parks and playgrounds

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gun rights advocates urged the New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday to block Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s emergency orders restricting people from carrying guns in public parks and playgrounds in the state’s largest urban area. and address gun violence as a public health crisis.

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday without ruling on a case brought by Republican state lawmakers, National Rifle Association and several Albuquerque area residents who include retired law enforcement officers, former federal agents, licensed firearms instructors and a gun store owner.

The state’s legal opposition is one of many – from an Illinois bans high-powered rifles to location-based restrictions in New York — after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year expanded gun rights and as leaders in politically liberal states explore new avenues for restrictions. A California law was set to go into effect Jan. 1 banning firearms in most public places, but a legal challenge hold execution.

Lujan Grisham, a second-term Democrat, first invoked the orders in response to a series of shootings, including the death of an 11-year-old boy outside a minor league baseball stadium.

Supreme Court justices questioned attorneys for more than an hour as they weighed whether to limit the governor’s use of emergency powers to restrict firearms. There was an unusually heavy police presence outside the courthouse, with New Mexico State Police cars lining the street.

“It seems to me that there are guardrails, so to speak. … You have to say the nature of the public health emergency,” Judge Michael E. Vigil told a lawyer for the governor. “Where is the statistical information showing that gun violence in public parks in Albuquerque and in Bernalillo County is a problem? There is nothing in these declarations to indicate this.

Judge Briana Zamora said New Mexico lawmakers have given the governor broader emergency powers than many states. She also sounded a cautionary note about executive power.

“If we allow this, what do we not allow?” she asked.

The Supreme Court adjourned without setting a deadline or ruling.

The petitioners say Lujan Grisham overstepped her authority as governor in violation of the Second Amendment and that gun violence and drug abuse do not qualify as public health emergencies that can limit access to firearms, even temporarily.

They accuse the governor of violating the legislature’s powers and ignoring gun regulations that have been perfected over more than a century, including concealed weapons laws. The state Republican and Libertarian parties also support the legal challenge.

“The executive orders are so far-fetched and so inconsistent with emergency laws that they are generally invalid — attempting to declare a state of emergency based on ‘gun violence’ and ‘drug abuse,'” argued attorney Jessica Hernandez of the Monday the name of gun rights advocates.

In defining what constitutes a public health emergency, the governor argued that both gun violence and drug abuse “comfortably fall into” the category due to extremely dangerous conditions created by weapons and toxic chemical agents posing an immediate threat to many residents of New Mexico.

Temporary orders do not violate constitutional rights, she says.

“These are the powers that the governor has, and these are the powers that she was re-elected to use, again, after consulting with her public health experts on what constitutes an emergency,” said Holly Aghajanian, the governor’s chief general counsel .

Separately, a federal judge allowed enforcement of the gun provision to continue pending legal challenges. The October ruling by U.S. District Judge David Urias marked a victory for Lujan Grisham.

The governor’s orders, first issued on September 8, 2023, sparked public outcry among gun rights advocates and additional legal challenges in federal court, which are still ongoing.

The initial restrictions on carrying guns were eased from the original order, which broadly suspended the right to carry guns in most public places, which the Bernalillo County Sheriff and Albuquerque’s police chief refused to enforce.

The governor’s health order includes directives for gun buyback efforts, monthly inspections of firearms dealers throughout the state, reports of gunshot victims at New Mexico hospitals, and testing of wastewater for indications of illegal drug use at state facilities. schools.

Long-time head of the NRA Wayne LaPierre has resigned before a civil trial began in New York on Monday on charges he treated himself to lavish perks at the expense of the powerful gun rights group.

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