Grisham's latest executive order on guns still aimed in the wrong direction

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The good news is that New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham isn’t overtly violating the Second Amendment rights of New Mexico residents with her latest order. The bad news is that she’s still wasting taxpayer dollars as well as law enforcement resources on something that won’t reduce violent crime in the slightest. I suppose that still counts as an improvement of sorts, though her newest edict isn’t cause for celebration for anyone other than the most committed of anti-gun activists.


Grisham’s latest public health order, issued last Friday, still contains the ban on open and concealed carry in parks and playgrounds in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, though that ban is on hold thanks to a temporary restraining order granted by a federal judge. The governor’s revised order was the subject of another court hearing last week, but unlike the first hearing U.S. District Judge David H. Urias did not issue a ruling from the bench. Intead, Urias took the issue under consideration and pledged to deliver a ruling on the gun ban in parks and playgrounds as early as this week. But while Grisham is waiting to see if the judge declares she has the authority to suspend the right to carry anywhere based solely on her proclamation of a state of emergency, the governor is barreling full speed ahead with her plan to hold a series of compensated confiscation events across the state.

The new public health order contains a provision to organize “safe surrender events,” better known as gun buybacks, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“The New Mexico Department of Public Safety shall organize safe surrender events (also known as ‘gun buy-backs’) in the cities of Albuquerque, Española, and Las Cruces within thirty days,” the provision said.

Although politicians nationwide have supported gun buyback programs, evidence that they reduce gun violence is scant, according to Rand Corporation.

“Although it is possible that gun buybacks have prevented incidents of firearm-related harm, it is very unlikely that such small reductions in the number of guns available would lead to measurable decreases in firearm crime, injuries, or deaths,” the centrist think tank contests. “Communities continue to hold gun buyback events without empirical evidence that they reduce firearm violence.”

Regardless, Lujan Grisham said the state needs to take action to prevent gun violence.

“The fact of the matter is that New Mexicans are still being threatened, injured, and killed by firearms,” Governor Lujan Grisham said in the release. “Just yesterday, two guns were found in the possession of students at an Albuquerque high school, and while thankfully no one was hurt, these incidents have profound psychological effects on our children. The last four weeks have clearly demonstrated the impact we can have on violent crime when we work in better coordination, but the situation remains dire. We’re not letting up, and I’m continuing to make investments that drive down violence in our communities and protect our children.”


The fact of the matter is that even in the most restrictive of states guns are used by violent criminals on a regular basis, but I do appreciate the governor’s candor in basically acknowledging that she believes gun ownership in general is a problem that needs to be solved rather than a right that deserves to be protected.

Yes, New Mexico’s violent crime rate is unacceptably high, but virtually nothing that the governor has done has improved things, whether we’re talking about her unconstitutional order suspending the right to carry or the gun control bills that she’s signed into law imposing “universal” background checks, establishing “red flag” laws, or prohibiting lawful carry in the state capitol. Her eagerness to deploy “safe surrender events” across the state is just another way to demonize lawful gun ownership while turning a blind eye to the actual perpetrators of violence. In fact, a 2021 study indicated that these kinds of “buybacks” don’t reduce violent crime, and may even lead to a small increase in violence in the months after an event takes place.

While policymakers are fiercely debating whether to implement GBPs, little is known about their effectiveness. This paper is the first to present credible causal estimates on the effects of GBPs in the United States. We highlight three key findings.

First, using data from the 1991-2015 National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), we find no evidence that GBPs are effective at deterring gun crime either in the short- or longer-run. The precision of our estimates is such that, with 95 percent confidence, we can rule out decreases in gun crime of 1.2 percent in the 12 months following a GBP and 2.3 percent a year or more after a GBP.

Second, in the two months following a GBP, we detect a small increase in gun crimes with no corresponding change in non-gun crimes. This finding is consistent with a possible criminal response to perceptions about the likelihood of self-defense among law-abiding gun owners.

Finally, turning to data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), we find no evidence that GBPs affected firearm-related suicides or homicides. We conclude that GBPs are an ineffective policy strategy to reduce gun violence, a finding consistent with descriptive evidence that (i) firearm sales prices are set too low by cities to appreciably reduce the local supply of firearms (Reuter and Mouzos 2004), (ii) most GBP participants are drawn from populations with low crime risk (Planty and Truman 2013; Violano et al. 2014; Romero et al. 1998), and (iii) firearms sold in GBPs tend to be older and less well-functioning than the average firearm (Kuhn et al. 2002; Levitt 2004).


Even when Grisham isn’t actively trying to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of New Mexico gun owners, she’s still holding fast to her position that gun ownership itself is a public safety concern. The truth is that Grisham’s own reluctance to crack down on violent criminals and her eagerness to go after lawful gun owners isn’t helping New Mexico become a safer place. Quite the contrary. Grisham’s policies and her unilateral actions aren’t just a threat to the right to keep and bear arms, they’re making the Land of Enchantment a more dangerous place to live, work, and visit.


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