Federal judge blocks Lujan Grisham’s gun ban order

Was there any real doubt? The speed in which U.S. District Judge David H. Urias addressed these lawsuits certainly gave a big clue. Just moments ago, the federal judge issued an order blocking New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s attempt to use a self-declared “health emergency” to block legal firearms carry in Bernalillo County.

It’s a temporary order pending a full hearing in three weeks, but that should be a clear enough signal even to someone as dim as Lujan Grisham.

The executive order, which Lujan Grisham issued on Friday in response to recent shootings in the area, had drawn extensive blowback from the state’s elected Republicans for violating gun rights and also some Democrats and gun control advocates who questioned its constitutionality.

Local law enforcement officials said they would not enforce the order, and the state’s Democratic attorney general, Raúl Torrez, had written to Lujan Grisham to declare that he could not legally defend it while also questioning its efficacy. She based the ban on a public health emergency she’d declared one day prior over gun violence.

During the hearing, Judge Urias, an appointee of President Joe Biden who took his seat on the bench last year, indicated that the numerous Supreme Court precedents on the Second Amendment suggested that the governor’s order would cause irreparable harm to citizens seeking to exercise their gun rights. Thus, he said, he had to issue a temporary strike of the ban — a move that does not rule on its merits.

“To be honest with you, I think you have kind of a hard road here to get up,” Urias told Holly Agajanian, the attorney for the governor’s office defending the rule.

In briefs and during Wednesday’s court session, lawyers for the various gun rights groups argued that Lujan Grisham and her administration went far beyond constitutional powers in issuing the order.

“The Second Amendment has no exception. It has no part of it that says as long as the state governor can issue an emergency, you’re allowed to take our citizens’ firearms,” Jason Bowles, an attorney representing the National Association for Gun Rights, said during the hearing. “There’s no historical evidence of that. There’s no support for it.”

On numerous occasions, the lawyers cite in their argument as precedent New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, a 2022 Supreme Court case that in effect boosted open-carry laws and ordered that Second Amendment restrictions must mesh consistently with historical rules on firearms in the country. The New Mexico order goes beyond these prescriptions, many of the lawyers argued.

Criticizing the Bruen decision, Agajanian said that Lujan Grisham was acting out of an emergency and that the court should let the 30-day order play out to see what happened.

“The governor rejects the notion that she can’t even try to keep the streets safe,” Agajanian said. “She rejects the notion that other people in this city have lesser rights than other people.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s ruling.

Amid continued blowback over her order, however, the governor has remained resistant and indicated that she intends to stand behind her order.

“I will keep doing everything that’s based in science and fact and public safety efforts to clean up our cities to make this the safest state in America,” Lujan Grisham said earlier Wednesday on “Good Morning America.” “I will not stop until that’s done.”

The court will hold a hearing to evaluate the merits of arguments on the rule on Oct. 3, Urias said on Wednesday. The temporary restraining order will extend until then, even though it would normally be limited to 14 days. The extension was accepted by both parties because counsel on both sides did not have availability for a court date within that two-week time frame.

The judge specifically enjoined two sections of the executive order that restricted gun use. Other parts of the governor’s order not in contention included instruction for various state agencies to analyze the sale and use of guns in New Mexico and monitor the presence of illegal substances such as fentanyl in the wastewater.

Six Republican senators — Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Tom Cotton of Arkansas — wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday asking him to step in and stop the order, which they called an “unconstitutional power grab.”

“This is a chilling action,” the senators wrote, “and it is imperative that your Department act immediately to show that this kind of unconstitutional abuse will not be tolerated in New Mexico or anywhere else in the United States.”

Only sections 1 and 4 of Lujan Grisham’s order are enjoined by Urias’ order, but those were the most objectionable. The plaintiffs no doubt will develop an argument about section 2, which required “monthly inspections of licensed firearms dealers,” which is a strange demand in what was supposed to be a 30-day order. That doesn’t appear to be a constitutional issue, though, and any objections might be moot before an effective challenge can be mounted.

The real question now is whether Lujan Grisham finally and belatedly recognizes the incredibly stupid position in which she has put herself. Lujan Grisham wound up alienating all of her political support in the state, at first with her declaration and then with her insulting rebuke to Bernalillo County sheriff John Allen and Albuquerque’s political and law-enforcement leadership, all of whom refused to enforce her ridiculous order. Lujan Grisham laughably declared that she didn’t need “a lesson in constitutionality” from Allen and suggested that he was being gutless rather than principled.

Well, Judge Urias just gave Lujan Grisham the lesson she claimed she didn’t need, and a path to retreat before a full hearing three weeks from now. Will Lujan Grisham learn that lesson, or will she simply assert that Urias has as much authority over her office as she claims the US Constitution has? With anyone else, I’d bet on the former, but Lujan Grisham has proven so inept that the latter wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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