The following appeared in Las Cruces Sun-News on September 15, 2023 and in other papers across New Mexico.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recently gained national headlines for her public health order which essentially banned carrying a gun in Bernalillo County, the State’s largest county by population. Her justification for this dramatic action was a recent shooting outside Isotopes Park, but residents of Bernalillo County and Albuquerque face and have faced these issues for years.
Each time a criminal uses a gun to kill or steal it is frustrating and sad event. Both the causes and solutions are complicated and controversial. No matter the crisis one person (including the Gov.) cannot simply suspend the rule of law and the US Constitution.
Many New Mexicans like me believe Albuquerque’s crime problem is the result of weak leadership at multiple levels: The City fails to enforce the law, Department of Justice policies further hamstring the police, “catch and release” judges that voters (sadly) keep electing, and an unwillingness of the Gov. and Legislature to pass laws addressing our serious crime problems. And those are just the public policy failures, not the societal ones.
Many New Mexicans carry guns in response to the threat of violence they face.
Any attempt to deal with crime needs to involve the Legislature and other State and local elected officials. This would be true even if New Mexico had Republicans in positions of political power which they don’t.
Sadly, Lujan Grisham is only taking the next logical step in accumulating political power to herself. Declaring a “health emergency” and then making all manner of policies regarding school and business openings as well as vaccines and masks with little public input or say-so was her approach during COVID.
Sadly, the same Democrats who run the Legislature and who failed to pass basic restrictions on the Gov.’s COVID powers (like a 45-day limit on her emergency powers) remain largely unwilling to address the Gov.’s latest overreach on guns (Sen. Joe Cervantes is one notable exception as he has spoken out in opposition).
This is not just about guns. Lujan Grisham has exhibited a pattern of taking powers whether they are hers to use or not. She is currently working through an unelected Environmental Improvement Board, not the elected Legislature, to impose drastic new mandates that will soon require 82% of vehicles sold in New Mexico to be electric.
Occasionally the Gov.’s anti-Democracy tactics are on seemingly minor issues. Back in the 2022 special session of the Legislature the Gov. requested $1 million to reduce fees on the struggling New Mexico Rail Runner Express. The funds were not allocated by the Legislature, but the Gov. decided to cut fares anyway on her own.
Gov. Lujan Grisham may or may not have a political future beyond the remainder of her current term of office. Despite impeachment proceedings that have been filed by the GOP, we will likely be stuck with this Gov. until her term expires the end of 2026 when her term expires.
But the entire Legislature is up next November. And when they are running for office, one of the very first questions voters need to ask them is what they will do to hold the Gov. accountable when she ignores the law.
They should start by speaking clearly and publicly in opposition to her “gun grab” and then they should enact limits on the duration and scope of executive power in public health emergencies.
Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility