New Mexico Gov. Michelle Grisham, D, has declared gun violence a public health emergency and issued an executive order suspending the right of New Mexico citizens to open or conceal carry a gun in public places, sparking a political firestorm in the process and garnering sharp criticism from across the ideological spectrum.
Grisham declared gun violence a public health emergency on September 7 and used her powers to restrict the Second Amendment for 30 days, stating that “no constitutional right, in my view, including my oath, is intended to be absolute.”
Her move followed the murders of three children and teenagers in three separate shootings: a 5-year-old girl who was asleep in her bed when struck by a bullet from a drive-by shooting, an 11-year-old boy who was shot leaving a minor league baseball game after assailants reportedly fired 17 shots into his aunt’s car, and a 13-year-old girl murdered at her house by a 14-year-old boy.
As part of her declaration, Gov. Grisham urged Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to stem the flow of illegal drugs and guns into the state. She stated,
“Mayor Keller, I am again urging you to take every possible action to stem the flow of illegal drugs and guns into your city and stop them from getting into the wrong hands. Attorney General Garland, I have asked you—in fact begged you—to send additional federal agents to New Mexico on multiple occasions, only to be met with deafening silence.”
Grisham has sent numerous letters to Garland, including her latest plea on September 7, stating that state and local law enforcement alone cannot curb the rising human trafficking and violence “plaguing” New Mexico and asking for the Department of Justice to send federal resources and personnel to help stem the crisis.
The next day, Grisham issued an executive order, which in part suspended the right of citizens to carry firearms in public places in “cities or counties averaging 1,000 or more violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year since 2021,” which includes Albuquerque. She explained,
“…the time for standard measures has passed. And 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.”
The order allows gun owners to have firearms on private property, such as in their homes or at gun ranges, but bars them from conceal-carrying or open-carrying them in any public place. If being transported, guns must have a trigger lock or another mechanism that prevents them from being fired. Guns are also prohibited on any state property and “places of education where children gather,” such as schools or parks.
The order has been decried by conservatives and liberals as being a gross overreach and violation of the Second Amendment. David Hogg, a gun control activist who started his advocacy after surviving the school shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, posted on X, formerly Twitter, “I support gun safety but there is no such thing as a state public health emergency exception to the U.S. Constitution.”
Two Republican members of the New Mexico Legislature have already signaled that they will move to impeach Grisham. Rep. Stefani Lord issued a statement declaring that she and Rep. John Block are calling for Grisham’s impeachment:
“This emergency order violates the Governor’s oath to protect and defend the rights of New Mexicans and is illegal in nature. The legislature has a duty to intervene when the government is overstepping its boundaries, and Governor Grisham’s order and comments disqualify her from continuing her tenure as Governor.”
Grisham argues that she has the authority to impose restrictions on gun rights, explaining,
“If there’s an emergency and I’ve declared an emergency for a temporary amount of time, I can invoke additional powers. No constitutional right, in my view, including my oath, is intended to be absolute. There are restrictions on free speech. There are restrictions on my freedoms.”
She asserts that her order only suspends state laws on concealed and open carry, not on Second Amendment rights.
Her order already faces legal challenges from gun rights groups and at least one private citizen.
Taken at her word, Grisham’s frustration at being unable to protect the state’s children from violence is understandable, and upon reviewing her efforts it seems she genuinely is trying to stop the wave of drugs and guns pouring into the state, as well as the human trafficking, that is perpetuating crime and violence. She has also declared illegal drugs to be a public health emergency and has repeatedly requested help from the Department of Justice with these problems. It truly is tragic that inaction and poor policies have helped lead to such wicked acts that are killing children.
Despite this, her attempt to suspend the rights of law-abiding citizens is not only unconstitutional but it is counterintuitive as history informs us that government gun control always leads to more innocent victims, not fewer.
A governor cannot be allowed to suspend the constitutional rights of citizens to defend themselves, their families, and those in their communities. The Constitution does not grant a governor the authority to suspend the Bill of Rights. While she claims she is only suspending state laws, she is, in fact, infringing on the Second Amendment. Not only does the Constitution cement the right of Americans to keep and bear arms, but recent Supreme Court rulings make it abundantly clear that the Constitution grants citizens the right to not just own firearms but to also carry them in public.
This right was made crystal clear with the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling in New York State Pistol and Rifle Assn v. Bruen. Take the first paragraph of the majority’s opinion, which reads,
“In this case, petitioners and respondents agree that ordinary, law-abiding citizens have a similar right to carry handguns publicly for their self-defense. We too agree, and now hold, consistent with Heller and McDonald, that the Second and Fourteenth Amendments protect an individual’s right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.”
Similar to New Mexico, the state of New York was taking it upon itself to arbitrarily deny conceal-carry permits to citizens. The Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees the right of Americans to carry firearms in public places and it is outside the state’s authority to infringe that right.
Rights that can be suspended by the whim of a single politician are not rights but temporary privileges afforded by the goodwill of tyrants. The governor’s order should be rescinded immediately or overturned in court. Americans have the God-given right to self-defense — and it cannot be infringed.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and politics? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page, where we’ve published several long-form pieces to help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.