The legal fight over the New Mexico governor’s public health order

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A federal judge made a big ruling Wednesday against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

U.S. District Court Judge David Herrera Urias issued a temporary restraining order that stopped parts of the new public health order targeting gun violence. Specifically, the parts that ban the lawful carrying of guns in Bernalillo County.

The restraining order will be in effect until another hearing next month.

Ever since the governor announced this public health order, she has gotten some major backlash from Republicans and fellow Democrats.

The question of constitutionality continues to be brought up, but she insists not only is this move constitutional, but she can also enforce it.

In the public health order that was issued last Friday, the governor cites three specific acts that she says give her this authority. However, some opponents say she is not interpreting those laws correctly. 

The laws the governor cites in her public health order are the Public Health Act, the Public Health Emergency Response Act, and the Department of Health Act. 

These acts define a “condition of public health importance” as an infection, a disease, a syndrome, a symptom, an injury, or “other threat” that can reasonably be expected to lead to adverse health effects in the community.

Lujan Grisham is saying gun violence falls under that “other threat” category. Therefore, she is calling for the suspension of open and concealed carry permits in areas where gun violence has a major impact on the community.

But in a letter addressed to the governor from Attorney General Raúl Torrez, he explained why he would not defend her administration in pending lawsuits.

He writes her office is stretching the definition of a public health emergency to cover something that is a public safety issue:

“Simply rebranding gun violence as a public health emergency will not satisfy the heightened judicial standard needed to justify a blanket prohibition for all citizens.”

So far there have been six lawsuits filed against the governor’s office over this order, with more expected to be filed by the Republican Party.

However, on Wednesday afternoon, a federal court judge granted a temporary restraining order on the part of the public health order that suspended carrying guns in public. 

So, for now, that is no longer enforceable, and the next court hearing is Oct. 3.