ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A temporary ban on carrying firearms in public is sparking debate and criticism. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico says they’re concerned the ban could lead to over-policing and discrimination.

On September 8, 2023, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced an emergency public health order to address statewide gun violence and drug abuse.

The order limits open and concealed carry within cities and counties with a high rate of violent crime. The order also puts more law enforcement officers in some communities, among other things. Right now, the order only applies to Bernalillo County. The governor is basing the order on the county averaging more than 1,000 violent crimes per 100,000 people, and a lot of emergency room visits for gun injuries.

The public health order has already raised questions over the constitutionality of the move and has sparked several lawsuits. Now, the ACLU says they’re concerned about the potential effects of boosting law enforcement. In a statement, they wrote:

“The ACLU of New Mexico is heartbroken over the recent death of a child and shares the governor’s concern for the well-being of our community. However, we are equally concerned that her solution to the complicated problems of substance abuse, addiction, and gun violence is to pour more resources into law enforcement.  

Historically, this kind of approach leads to the over policing of our communities, racial profiling, and increased misery in the lives of already marginalized people. Instead, the governor should be following evidence-based solutions such as meaningful diversion and violence intervention programs and addressing the root causes of violence. The order also raises legitimate and pressing concerns about New Mexicans’ privacy. 

“We are closely monitoring the legal challenges to this executive order, recognizing that many people in our state are focused on the section related to firearms. However, we are deeply concerned about other parts of the order, including the governor’s decision to suspend a program that helps children avoid juvenile prison. We know that incarceration during childhood increases the likelihood that someone will end up in the adult criminal system. Ending a program that helps young people find a different path is counterproductive to public safety.  

While we acknowledge the severity of the fentanyl crisis, we oppose any actions that risk further criminalizing our youth or individuals struggling with addiction. 

ACLU-NM stands in support of initiatives that prioritize treatment and improve access to services to facilitate recovery. We know these approaches are far more effective than criminalization or incarceration.  

Our organization remains committed to advocating for policies that safeguard the civil liberties and rights of all citizens, while simultaneously addressing public health crises through compassionate, evidence-based strategies.” 

ACLU-NM Statement to the media

The governor’s public health order does seem to address some potential underlying causes of gun violence. For example, the order directs the state’s Department of Health to create a report on gunshot victims who are treated at New Mexico hospitals. The order also directs the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) to suspend the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative and to evaluate juvenile probation protocols, among other things.

Gun violence in New Mexico is not a particularly new problem. KRQE News 13 explored the issue in a series of articles in 2021. The latest news surrounding gun violence was sparked by the death of an 11-year-old during an apparent road rage shooting in September 2023.