A New Mexico sheriff has called for a special legislative session to oppose Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D-NM) “unconstitutional” 30-day executive order blocking open and concealed carrying of firearms.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen, who oversees Albuquerque, denounced Lujan Grisham’s decision last week that would impose penalties on anyone lawfully carrying a firearm in the state’s most populous county in response to what she called an epidemic of gun violence.
“The temporary ban challenges the foundations of our Constitution, but most importantly, it is unconstitutional. My oath was to protect the Constitution, and that is what I will do,” Allen said.
The sheriff provided other reasons for not upholding the governor’s executive order, including a personal story surrounding his brother’s encounter with gun violence earlier this month.
“Last week, as I’m sitting here as the sitting sheriff, I get a phone call that my brother also was a victim of gun violence last week that many of you do not know,” Allen said. “He and my nephew were sitting in their car when they were shot at, and their vehicle was impacted by numerous rounds. How can I, as a sheriff, tell him to put his firearms away and not be able to protect himself?”
Allen vehemently underscored that he and the governor “work as a team” despite their differences on her executive order, saying that a special session is needed not only to address crime in the county but also “for the state of New Mexico.”
More than 100 people showed up to a public park in Old Town on Sunday to protest the governor’s order, with many carrying guns and rifles openly and peacefully to express their frustration at the new order.
While the order went into effect immediately on Friday, local law enforcement, including the Albuquerque Police Department, do not appear to be enforcing fines for nonviolent offenders. A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office affirmed it would not be enforcing the order and told the Washington Examiner that “zero fines” were handed out during the Sunday protest.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman, who once served as a Democratic Party leader and was appointed by Lujan Grisham, told the Washington Examiner he wouldn’t enforce the order.
“As an officer of the court, I cannot and will not enforce something that is clearly unconstitutional,” said Bregman, the leading prosecutor in Albuquerque. “This office will continue to focus on criminals of any age that use guns in the commission of a crime.”
The Washington Examiner contacted the governor’s office in response to Allen’s calls for a special session. As of now, the next session isn’t set to commence until Jan. 16.
The governor, a Democrat, has received a flood of backlash for the 30-day suspension from across party lines. The emergency order came after an 11-year-old, Froylan Villegas, was shot and killed in a suspected road rage-related shooting on Wednesday and coincides with a recent surge in violent gun crime around the county.
At least four lawsuits have been filed against the executive order, and the National Rifle Association and its New Mexico affiliate have signaled they may file lawsuits seeking damages of up to $2 million per person affected by the order.
Legal experts have said the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision that held modern gun regulations should conform to the nation’s “history” of firearms laws would likely prove to be an uphill battle for the governor’s order.
And even though Lujan Grisham’s order ends beginning in early October, an expert from the Duke Center for Firearms Law told the Washington Examiner the lawsuits aren’t likely to fizzle out the same.
“There’s generally an exception to mootness if an injury is capable of repetition,” Andrew Willinger told the Washington Examiner.
“There could be future gun violence, and the governor could issue another similar order. You know, the fact that this one has expired wouldn’t necessarily moot a constitutional challenge,” Willinger added.