A federal judge has denied New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s request to stay a preliminary injunction that’s keeping enforcement of her unilaterally imposed ban on concealed carry in public parks in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, but that’s not the only good news for gun owners in the Land of Enchantment. The head of a little-known state agency has also been slapped with an ethics complaint after she used her official government email to push employees to lobby for a gun control bill that would increase taxes on firearms and ammunition.
In a Monday ruling, U.S. District Judge Kea W. Riggs took Grisham and her attorneys to task for introducing new evidence that they claim proves the park carry ban fits within the national tradition of the right to keep and bear arms, noting that the attorneys could and should have brought forward any applicable laws or ordinances earlier in the case. But Riggs wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with the “new” findings brought by the state either, pointing out that the territorial laws cited by the governor’s attorneys were squarely rejected by the Supreme Court in Bruen as outliers to the national tradition.
Riggs also took issue with the argument that the state (and its residents) will suffer irreparable harm unless concealed carry can be banned in the state’s most populous city and county.
The record before the Court is unclear whether a firearm ban in public parks would reduce gun violence. Defendants’ arguments are contradictory. They cite to three shootings which occurred in Albuquerque parks before the public health order’s ban on firearms in Albuquerque parks, as proof that a ban is necessary. However, those shootings occurred during what Defendants allege was a separate firearm ban imposed by the City of Albuquerque.
To the extent they may suggest that additional state resources would be provided to enforce the Defendants’ ban under the public health order, they have not presented that in the record. Defendants suggest that the public may be intimidated by individuals such as Plaintiff carrying firearms for self-defense. While the Court is sympathetic to this argument, it is unclear whether this constitutes irreparable harm, and the Court is constrained by binding precedent under Bruen. Moreover, the government generally does not suffer irreparable harm from an injunction which halts an unconstitutional practice.
Then there’s the little matter of how folks could be intimidated by someone carrying concealed… not to mention the absurdity of arguing that someone’s potential feeling of fear should outweigh the individual right to bear arms in public for self-defense.
So, for now anyway, it looks like concealed carry holders can continue to lawfully bear arms in public parks in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, though if they do so in a playground they still run the risk of a civil fine.
Meanwhile, the head of the New Mexico Office of Family Representation and Advocacy is facing potential sanctions of her own after an ethics complaint was filed on Monday over her emails to staffers encouraging them to lobby in favor of a gun control bill.
Beth Gillia, head of the New Mexico Office of Family Representation and Advocacy, sent an email Sunday urging “interested parties,” including both state and contract employees, to contact members of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee in support of the agency’s budget and a proposed tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition. Proceeds of the proposed tax would benefit the agency.
“We need Commission Members and interested Parties to take an active role in supporting and promoting the Office of Family Representation and Advocacy,” she wrote in an attachment with talking points.
Maralyn Beck, founder of the New Mexico Child First Network, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of children in the state’s foster care system, contacted Gillia and the commission’s chairperson and vice chairperson via email less than two hours after Gillia’s email went out.
Beck wrote Gillia’s email had been forwarded to her “several times” from recipients of the original email who felt an ethics complaint should be filed “for encouraging state and contract employees to lobby” on the agency’s behalf without disclosing their relationship to the agency.
“It is unclear in the lobbying document … if you want your employees and paid staff to reach out to HAFC on behalf of themselves personally or in their official and state-funded positions,” Beck wrote. “There is also the concern that if a contract employee reaches out to HAFC on behalf of OFRA, can they bill for that time and get paid for doing so?”
Beck concluded by writing she will be filing a formal complaint with the State Ethics Commission, which was copied in her email to Gillia, and also sharing her concerns with members of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
“Politics has no business in child welfare, and this is disappointing,” Beck said. “I hope our legislators take this seriously and ask hard questions about the future of this agency and its impact on our most vulnerable children and families in New Mexico.”