Court reviews gun-carry restrictions under health order in New Mexico, as states explore options

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Restrictions on carrying guns in public that are tied to an emergency public health order are going under the legal microscope Tuesday in New Mexico, where the Democratic governor is testing the boundaries of her authority and constitutional law in response to violent crime in the state’s largest metro area.

The standoff is one of many in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year expanding gun rights, as leaders in politically liberal-leaning states explore new avenues for restrictions.

A court hearing is scheduled for the morning on legal challenges to the public health order from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that suspends the right to carry firearms in most public parks and playgrounds in and around Albuquerque.

Advocates for gun rights have filed a barrage of challenges to the 30-day health order, which originally included broad restrictions on carrying guns in public.

The governor will reissue orders on gun violence and drug abuse for an additional 30 days, Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Maddy Hayden said Monday. She said the urgent approach is spurring arrests and reining in gunfire. The orders include directives for monthly inspections of firearms dealers statewide, reports on gunshot victims at New Mexico hospitals and wastewater testing for illicit substances.

U.S. District Judge David Urias ruled last month that gun restrictions in the governor’s original order were likely to cause irreparable harm to people deprived of the right to carry a gun in public for self-defense and granted a temporary restraining order blocking it until Tuesday’s hearing.

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The governor has tied the suspension of some gun rights to a statistical threshold for violent crime that applied only to Albuquerque and the surrounding area.

Urias said in a recent court filing that restrictions on gun activity at playgrounds and other places where children play “may very well be constitutional.”

State police briefly would have authority under the order to assess civil penalties and fines of up to $5,000 for infractions. The sheriff and Albuquerque’s police chief had refused to enforce it.

The order has energized advocates for gun rights, including Republican lawmakers who have threatened impeachment proceedings against Lujan Grisham.

Some influential Democrats and civil rights leaders warn that the governor’s move could do more harm than good to overall efforts to ease gun violence, and the Democratic state attorney general has urged her to reconsider.

Other states including California, Washington, Colorado and Maryland have passed gun laws this year that face legal challenges.

Last week California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed nearly two dozen gun control measures, including ones banning the carrying of firearms in most public places while doubling taxes on guns and ammunition sales.

Newsom has acknowledged some of the gun measures might not survive in the courts. Last month a federal judge struck down a state law banning guns with detachable magazines that carry more than 10 rounds.