The owner of the Calibers gun stores in Albuquerque, New Mexico were hit with a cease-and-desist order from the New Mexico State Police, just a few days after the store announced it was re-opening in defiance of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s emergency order that declared gun stores “non-essential” businesses that must close.
Louie Sanchez says it’s unfair for the governor to shut down businesses like his, especially at a time when more Americans than ever are choosing to purchase a firearm for the first time.
“We don’t think this is fair, the governor is literally picking winners and losers for who will stay in business,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said moving forward, he hopes the governor’s officer will consider pleas from businesses like Calibers.
“Nobody is asking to open completely up,” he said. “If she let us open 20 percent of our businesses, at least we can keep our employees and start paying our bills.”
Based on the governor’s comments to New Mexico television station KOB, it’s highly unlikely that Sanchez will get the relief he’s asking for.
“Non-compliant businesses have been given numerous opportunities by the state to adjust and come into compliance with the public health order, which is unambiguous about the need to reduce and minimize person-to-person contact amid this pandemic. This is an example of a business that chose not to comply and thus was served with a cease-and-desist.”
If Grisham won’t willingly allow gun shops to re-open, a lawsuit brought by a coalition of Second Amendment organizations could still force her hand. The suit, filed in federal court, argues that while New Mexico’s Hazard Emergency Management Act grants the governor broad powers to act in the name of public health, it doesn’t say anything about shutting off access to the acquisition of firearms. Quite the opposite, in fact. New Mexico’s Public Health Emergency Response Act states that one of the purposes of the act is ““provid[ing] the state of New Mexico with the ability to manage public health emergencies in a manner that protects civil rights and the liberties of individual person.”
The civil rights of New Mexico residents aren’t being protected by the governor when she orders gun stores to close. Thanks to the universal background check law that Grisham signed in 2018, there’s virtually no way for most residents to purchase a firearm legally unless it goes through a background check, and those checks are only conducted at gun stores. With every gun shop in the state ordered to close, Grisham isn’t just regulating the right to keep and bear arms, she’s negating it for all those who want to become a gun owner during the state of emergency.
As Sanchez noted, he and other stores aren’t asking to return to business as usual. When Calibers re-opened, it did so with limited hours and by appointment, reducing the number of customers inside the shop to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Guidance by the ATF allowing gun stores to conduct their business outside will also help mitigate the danger of exposure for customers and staff alike, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Grisham, whose myopic focus on keeping gun stores closed is placing a constitutional right behind lock and key.