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 shut down 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, on behalf of multiple individuals, firearm retailers, and a litany of Second Amendment advocacy organizations, to vindicate those rights.
Many states and cities racing to contain COVID 19 defied the Second Amendment, but corrected course later by exempting gun stores from their shut down orders. However, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is refusing to recognize New Mexicans’ rights and is keeping firearm retailers, manufacturers and shooting ranges closed.
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The COVID 19 pandemic has caused massive societal changes. Prisons are having to release inmates early. Police are limiting arrests and responding only to the most essential calls for help. Many citizens recognized they might need to protect themselves and sought to utilize their right to keep and bear arms. Many firearms owners chose to be prepared, just in case.
Record numbers of Americans purchased firearms in March 2020. This surge of demand for firearms in demonstrates that Americans deem firearms to be “essential” in a time of national uncertainty.
But in New Mexico, the government is infringing on those rights. New Mexico’s governor issued emergency shut down orders for all non-essential businesses by March 24, 2020. The list of essential businesses did not include firearms retailers and manufacturers.
Days later, on March 28, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security issued a memorandum classifying both as essential businesses, but the New Mexico order remained unchanged.
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 impinges on citizens’ constitutionally protected rights.
Mountain States Legal Foundation filed suit against Governor Grisham on April 10, on behalf of plaintiffs former State Rep. Robert Aragon, Zachary Fort, Anthony Segura, Rose’s Guns & More; Southwest Gunsmith Technologies and its owner Rick Kelly, the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association, Firearms Policy Coalition, Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association (NRA) in order to force the state to recognize their citizens’ rights. MSLF is seeking an immediate injunction against the order to stop New Mexico from enforcing its unconstitutional order.
An attorney and lifelong public servant, Robert Aragon served as a representative in the New Mexico statehouse twice and has held county and city offices in New Mexico.
Zachary Fort is president of the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association and a concealed handgun license holder. He is actively seeking to buy a handgun to defend himself, his family, and his property, but cannot lawfully buy one due to the closure of all firearms retailers. Not only that, but his concealed handgun license is about to expire April 12, and he cannot renew it because of the governor’s order closing all shooting ranges. License renewal includes a live shooting component that cannot be done at this time.
“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,” said Zachary. “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.”
Another plaintiff, Anthony Segura, is a licensed firearms instructor in the State of New Mexico and is a certified NRA pistol instructor and range safety officer. Anthony teaches New Mexico Department of Public Safety certified firearms training courses that are required to receive or renew a concealed handgun license. Due to the state closure of firearm ranges, Anthony can no longer offer his courses and has had to cancel a March course, and will have to cancel two in April. He is also actively seeking to buy a handgun for self-defense and for training students, but cannot due to the shut down order.
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.”