In a remarkable turn, Democrat New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez has refused to defend Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) controversial gun banning “emergency order” in court. This refusal underscores a growing divide, even within Democratic ranks, regarding Second Amendment rights and constitutional law.
Torrez made it clear in his letter to the governor, “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.” His refusal stems from his belief that the executive order, which bans people from carrying firearms in public spaces across Bernalillo County for 30 days, doesn’t pass “constitutional muster.”
BREAKING: New Mexico Attorney General tells the Governor that he won't defend her carry ban, saying "I do not believe it passes constitutional muster." pic.twitter.com/ORat27wAvn
— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) September 12, 2023
Lujan Grisham’s order was enacted in response to a spate of shootings, including tragic deaths of children. However, Torrez argued that unilateral action like this has little impact on the real issues driving gun violence. He wrote, “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.”
The attorney general is not alone in his refusal to back the governor’s order. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen also announced that they would not enforce the governor’s directive. Keller told social media that city police would not enforce the ban, while Sheriff Allen called it unconstitutional. The resistance to this overreach seems bipartisan and suggests that perhaps sweeping executive orders are not the answer to complex issues like gun violence.
In a recent statement, Lujan Grisham responded defiantly to Sheriff Allen, saying, “It’s not for police to tell me what’s constitutional or not. They haven’t supported one, not one gun violence effort in the State of New Mexico including domestic violence protections, universal background checks.” This arrogance in dismissing concerns about constitutional rights only serves to divide further.
While Lujan Grisham claims she is seeking to address a genuine public safety issue, her method that bypasses legislative deliberation poses serious constitutional questions that even members of her party must recognize. Elected officials must balance public safety with constitutional rights, and a failure to do so results in this type of fallout.
The governor is also taking flak from national figures like Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and anti-gun activist David Hogg, who claim that her emergency order violates the U.S. Constitution. Given the broad-based criticism, one can’t help but ponder the long-term ramifications of such a divisive move for New Mexico and Democratic politicians who aim to straddle the line between public safety and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
New Mexico State Reps. Stefani Lord (R) and John Block (R) have already called for impeachment proceedings against Lujan Grisham, citing her as a “rogue governor.” Additionally, a lawsuit against the governor has been filed by the National Association for Gun Rights and Albuquerque resident Foster Haines, pushing for a temporary restraining order against the measure.
As the situation unfolds, it serves as a bellwether for broader issues surrounding gun control, executive power, and constitutional rights, topics that need nuanced, bipartisan solutions rather than blunt-force executive orders. The move by Attorney General Torrez to prioritize constitutional rights, even at the expense of party unity, offers a glimmer of hope that some elected officials still take their oath to uphold the Constitution seriously.