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Is New Mexico's unconventional gun control approach working?

In September, the governor issued a ban on carrying guns in most public places in and around Albuquerque, declaring a public health emergency.
Is New Mexico's unconventional gun control approach working?
Posted at 3:52 PM, Dec 18, 2023

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has taken some unconventional action when it comes to gun violence.

In September, the governor issued a ban on carrying guns in most public places in and around Albuquerque, declaring a public health emergency. That controversial order came after children were killed in unrelated shootings.

The shooting deaths of children, including 11-year-old Froyland Villegas as he left a minor league baseball game, prompted New Mexico's Gov. in September to issue a ban on carrying guns in most public places in and around Albuquerque.

Declaring a public health emergency, Lujan Grisham acknowledged that enforcing the ban would be complicated.

"We believe unequivocally the public health order is working," Lujan Grisham said in a press conference in December. "Gun violence is an American public issue — it is in fact, an epidemic."

Attacks on Lujan Grisham's order came from gun rights advocates and even some of her fellow democrats in New Mexico, including the state's Attorney General doubting it would have a meaningful impact on public safety.

She's renewed the original 30-day order three times, but under court pressure reduced the area where guns are banned to parks and playgrounds in New Mexico's largest metropolitan area.

"Well, the part that is good is telling police to go after violent criminals," said Zach Fort, the president of the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association and part of a lawsuit against the gun ban.

Fort believes the state can do more to prevent criminals rather than using executive orders based on a declared health emergency.

"I would say that her order of restricting the rights of a concealed carry permit holder is totally uncalled for," Fort said. "It's totally inappropriate because people have concealed carry permits because they want to defend themselves. But unfortunately, a lot of the energy that she has put in this health order is fighting in the courts to push blatantly unconstitutional actions that the judges have been striking down."

SEE MORE: New Mexico governor orders suspension of firearm carry in Albuquerque

Despite ongoing legal challenges in federal court, Lujan Grisham recently extended the order another 30 days.

Officials reported a 7% decline in gunshots detected since the health order went into effect. In that same period, there have been 2,490 arrests and 290 guns seized.

Lujan Grisham's administration also said 87 juveniles have been detained in gun related crimes, 24 of whom would have been released before the public health order.

"Well, the governor has been very courageous on the issue of gun violence prevention," said Miranda Viscoli with the organization New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. "I think parts of the public health order are working and I think some parts of it aren't."

Viscoli admires the governor for taking a stand to prevent gun violence, but she believes there can be more done on the state level when it comes to purchasing firearms.

"I think the data collection, I think the raising awareness on the issue of gun violence prevention, is what is working here. We weren't talking about it. Usually after a major mass shooting, it stays in the news for maybe a week or two weeks. We're still talking about the health code. So, what this shows is that it's creating a very important conversation on the issue of gun violence prevention. Is it enough? No, but it does get us at the table."

Lujan Grisham's efforts to rein in the carrying of weapons in public places are being closely watched — not just in New Mexico, but by activists on both sides of the gun control issue.

In addition to gun buybacks, the health order includes monthly inspections of firearms dealers statewide, and reports on gunshot victims at New Mexico hospitals.

In a state with the third-highest gun deaths per capita in the country, Lujan Grisham is now pushing for more gun control bills in New Mexico's 2024 legislative session, including regulating assault-style weapons.

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