Guns on hips, guns on shoulders, guns in cars, guns in waistbands.
Handguns, assault rifles and even a few muskets were fully on display on Sunday in Old Town Albuquerque by about 150 or so people defying the recent New Mexico public health order issued late Friday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham banning the carrying of firearms in public spaces.
What wasn’t obvious, was an attempt at enforcement. Police were not present, save for an Albuquerque Police Department surveillance device parked at the corner of Old Town Plaza that is often there during weekend events. It’s unclear if any plain clothes officers were in attendance. No police in uniforms were seen throughout the event.
Even without that physical presence, the governor’s office intends to act.
“The order is being enforced, and citations will be forthcoming from the State Police,” said Caroline Sweeny, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham’s office. ”To ensure officer safety, we will not be providing additional details at this time.”
Multiple people were live streaming the event in Old Town which turned into an open-mic lasting several hours for anyone in attendance, mostly armed with at least one weapon, to share feelings, concerns and possible threats in reaction to the order.
A woman wearing a jacket depicting former President Donald Trump as a torero speaks to a masked protester holding a long gun during a gathering on Sunday in Old Town meant to defy Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order that temporarily banned the open carry of weapons. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source NM)
The public health order does not give police any authority to detain or send people to jail. It specifies people that people in violation “may be subject to civil administrative penalties.”
On Friday, after announcing the order, Lujan Grisham told reporters “we’re likely dealing with misdemeanors,” but she was not specific.
It’s also unclear if any penalties people could face for violating the order would stand up against a challenge in court. Several attorneys showed up Sunday offering to represent anyone who receives a citation under the public health order, which is already facing several legal challenges.
Potential misdemeanors were not a concern for some in attendance, most were focused on what they view as a violation of the Second Amendment.
“Since Friday, it’s been hard to not be emotional and emotionally heightened, my thoughts are very scattered,” Albuquerque resident Branden Perry said. “There is still fear here that coming to events like this will get you targeted.”
Perry, holding what he described as an AK-47 on his right shoulder and handgun on his waist, found it interesting police were not around to enforce the gun ban order, but said their absence would help not to incite any violence.
A man who would only identify himself as “Reverend Rico” holds a Bible, a handgun strapped to his hip, as he watches speakers at a protest Sunday in Old Town against the governor’s executive order. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source NM)
Rep. Stefani Lord (R- Sandia Park) rallied the crowd with calls to impeach Lujan Grisham. Lord did not specify about how she plans to do that, other than saying she is working with a legal team to take the governor to court for what she views are potential violations of the U.S. and state constitutions.
Saturday, the National Association for Gun Rights and Albuquerque resident Foster Allen Haines filed an eight-page complaint in federal court against Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Patrick Allen seeking an immediate halt on the public health order.
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Albuquerque attorney Timothy White and Wheat Ridge, Colorado lawyer Barry K. Arrington are running this legal challenge.
In response to criticism on social media, Lujan Grisham argued “conceal and open carry are state laws that I have jurisdiction over.”
A judge could rule on the matter as early as Monday, signaling direction for how legal challenges will move forward and if the governor’s public health order will be allowed to stay.