September 12, 2023

AG says he won’t defend Lujan Grisham administration in gun order lawsuits

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez sent Gov. Michelle Luan Grisham a letter telling her that his office would not defend her in the four cases so far filed in federal court challenging the Sept. 8 public health order.

The order puts a temporary ban on firearms in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County as well as imposing drug monitoring and other measures.

“Though I recognize my statutory obligation as New Mexico’s chief legal officer to defend state officials when they are sued in their official capacity, my duty to uphold and defend the constitutional rights of every citizen takes precedence,” Torrez’s letter stated. “Simply put, I do not believe that the Emergency Order will have any meaningful impact on public safety but, more importantly, I do not believe it passes constitutional muster.”

Torrez shared his anger and frustration about survivors and victims of gun violence.

“The tragic deaths of 5-year-old Galilea Samaniego in a recent drive-by shooting and 11-year-old Froylan Villegas in a road rage incident should serve as a wakeup call to everyone,” Torrez said in the letter. “I encourage you to engage in a more thoughtful and deliberative process with members of the New Mexico Legislature rather than taking unilateral action that infringes on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens while having little if any discernible impact on the underlying dynamics driving gun violence in our community.”

Torrez agrees with the need for a debate about the effects of gun violence, “but the issuance of an executive order in violation of core constitutional principles is not the appropriate method for bringing about such a debate, and its flawed legal foundation is likely to obscure rather than highlight, meaningful solutions.”

Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen announced Monday that his office would not be enforcing the order citing its alleged unconstitutionality, to which Lujan Grisham responded in a statement to the NM Political Report that her administration had “given you the tools, Sheriff Allen — now stop being squeamish about using them. I will not back down from doing what’s right and I will always put the safety of the people of New Mexico first.”

The four federal lawsuits were filed by the National Association for Gun Rights, We the Patriots USA, a class action lawsuit filed by Shawn Blas, a Bernalillo County resident and Randy Donk and Gun Owners of America.

Other groups are planning to file lawsuits against Lujan Grisham and her administration.

Two of these groups are the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association and the Republican Party of New Mexico.