US judge freezes New Mexico governor's gun ban

FILE PHOTO: Governor of New Mexico Michelle Lujan Grisham

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) -A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a ban on carrying guns in New Mexico's largest city after the order by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham threw the state into the center of the U.S. gun-rights debate.

U.S. District Court Judge David Urias said the governor's 30-day suspension of concealed and open firearm carry rights in Albuquerque and its surrounding county went against a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that people had a right to carry a gun outside their homes for self defense.

"They just want the right to carry their guns," Urias, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, said of plaintiffs requesting a temporary restraining order on parts of Lujan Grisham's Sept. 8 emergency public health order.

The Democratic governor issued the suspension on firearm carry laws to create a "cooling-off period" for authorities to address solutions to the state's high rates of gun crime after several children were shot dead in recent weeks.

"Over the past four days, I've seen more attention on resolving the crisis of gun violence than I have in the past four years," Lujan Grisham said in a statement after Urias' ruling.

Her order outraged gun-rights advocates and drew backlash from fellow Democrats and law enforcement officials who labeled it unconstitutional.

"Governor Grisham's tyranny is temporarily in check today," said Dudley Brown, president of a Colorado gun group that sued the governor.

Gun control campaigners praised Lujan Grisham's "courage" and Santa Fe's Catholic Archbishop feared more value was being given to gun rights than the life of an 11-year-old boy killed last week in an apparent Albuquerque road rage incident.

In the days after the gun ban, Albuquerque's mayor and Bernalillo County's sheriff both called for a special session of the state's legislature to deal with gun crime.

Mayor Tim Keller said he needed legislation to fix a broken criminal justice system, regulate assault weapons and provide addiction and mental health services, among other measures.

"Albuquerque families can't afford political debates that distract us from fighting violent crime," Keller wrote in a Tuesday letter to the governor.

Around 500 people die by guns each year in New Mexico, which ranks sixth among U.S. states for gun deaths per capita, according to gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety. Albuquerque is among the 10 most dangerous U.S. cities, based on FBI violent crime data.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond and Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Stephen Coates and Diane Craft)