New Mexico’s Constitutional Crisis Sparks MSLF Lawsuit
Even in an emergency, constitutionally-protected rights must be defended. New Mexico’s governor shut down the state’s firearms retailers as part of her emergency orders designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
But her order illegally deprives citizens of their Second Amendment protected rights. MSLF filed a lawsuit in April, on behalf of multiple individuals, firearm retailers, and a litany of Second Amend- ment advocacy organizations, to vindicate those rights.
NM Ignores Homeland Security Dept Guidelines
Record numbers of Americans purchased firearms in March 2020. This surge of demand for firearms demonstrates that Americans deem firearms to be “essential” in a time of national uncertainty.
But New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham believes that she knows better than the people she governs.
Like other governors across the nation, Gov. Grisham issued emergency shutdown orders for all non- essential businesses in March, allowing “essential” businesses to remain open. But her list of essential businesses did not include firearms retailers, ranges, or repair facilities.
Days later, on March 28, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security issued a memorandum recommending classification of firearms retailers, ranges, repair facilities, and other related businesses as essential, but the New Mexico order remained unchanged.
Other states and cities racing to contain COVID-19 defied the Second Amendment, but corrected course later by exempting gun stores from their shutdown orders. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, however, is refusing to recognize New Mexicans’ rights and the guidelines of the Dept. of Homeland Security. She is acting as if she has authority to simply scratch the Second Amend- ment right out of the Constitution.
Why Are Firearm Retailers ‘Essential’?
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive societal changes. Prisons are releasing inmates early. Police in many cities have announced that they are
limiting arrests and responding only to the most essential calls for help. Not surprisingly, many citizens recognized they might need to protect themselves and sought to utilize their right to keep and bear arms. They chose to be prepared, just in case. Firearms retailers are saying that they have seen a surge in first-time gun purchasers.
Buying a firearm isn’t like buying any other product. You can’t simply order one online and have it delivered to your home. Federal law almost completely prohibits the sale of firearms except through authorized sellers at physical locations.
Just last year, New Mexico passed a law requiring nearly every firearm sale or transfer to be done by a federally licensed dealer — and now the governor has closed all of those dealers.
Closing physical retail locations makes it impossible to purchase a firearm and unlawfully infringes on citizens’ natural right to self-defense, which is specifically protected by the Constitution.
Our Legal Action
Mountain States Legal Foundation filed suit against Governor Grisham on April 10, on behalf of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), Second Amendment Foundation, as well as several individual New Mexico citizens and businesses.
Among those individuals is Robert Aragon, who served as a representative in the New Mexico statehouse twice and has held county and city offices in New Mexico. Our clients are bravely standing up to defend the Constitutional rights of all New Mexicans.
Another of our clients, Zachary Fort, President of the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association, is actively seeking to buy a handgun to defend him- self, his family, and his property. But he cannot lawfully buy one due to the closure of all firearms retailers. Not only that, but his concealed handgun license has expired, and he cannot renew it because license renewal requires a live shooting component that cannot be done at this time due to the governor’s order closing all shooting ranges.
“The failure of New Mexico’s leaders to recognize our right to self-defense has not only diminished our rights, it has left New Mexicans vulnerable,” Zachary said. “This legal action seeks to restore our constitutional rights and protect New Mexicans by bringing New Mexico into alignment with guidance from the Dept. of Homeland Security that firearms retailers and shooting ranges are essential businesses.”
FPC’s Director of Legal Strategy Adam Kraut said, “Unfortunately, we find ourselves having to litigate yet another case where government officials believe that a crisis creates an exception to an enumerated constitutional right. We are happy to join with our friends from various organizations to defend the People of New Mexico’s right to keep and bear arms.”
MSLF is seeking an immediate injunction against the government to stop New Mexico from enforcing its unconstitutional order.
The historic surge in demand shows that the right to legally purchase a firearm is something the American people consider to be essential. Americans understand that the ability to protect yourself and your family is paramount. Our courageous clients are standing up to defend those rights for their fellow New Mexicans and all Americans.
Cody Wisniewski is an attorney with Mountain States Legal Foundation, specializing in Second Amendment law.