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MON: Bernalillo County Sheriff calls governor's gun ban unconstitutional, + More

Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen calls New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's order suspending the carrying of firearms in the state's most populous metropolitan area unconstitutional during a news conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. Allen is among the other municipal law enforcement officials who have said they will not enforce the Democratic governor's order.
Susan Montoya Bryan
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen calls New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's order suspending the carrying of firearms in the state's most populous metropolitan area unconstitutional during a news conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. Allen is among the other municipal law enforcement officials who have said they will not enforce the Democratic governor's order.

Sheriff in New Mexico's most populous county rejects governor's gun ban, calling it unconstitutional - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The sheriff in New Mexico's largest metro area vowed Monday not to enforce an emergency order by the governor to temporarily suspend the right to carry firearms in public in and around the city of Albuquerque.

"It's unconstitutional, so there's no way we can enforce that order," Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said during a news conference. "This ban does nothing to curb gun violence."

Reaction has been swift after Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the order Friday, telling reporters that she expected legal challenges and that state police would handle enforcement.

"I welcome the debate and fight about how to make New Mexicans safer," she said, while also acknowledging that criminals surely would ignore her order.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman, a Democratic party leader who was appointed by Lujan Grisham, joined Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Harold Medina saying they too would not enforce it. A gun rights group filed a federal lawsuit within 24 hours seeking an immediate court order to block the order from taking effect.

Republican state lawmakers also have proposed initiating impeachment proceedings against the governor, a move that would require buy-in from the Democrats who control the state Legislature.

"My constituents have reached out to me in droves, emailing and texting me that this is insane, this is horrifying, this is unconstitutional," said Republican state Rep. John Block of Alamogordo, who represents a conservative stronghold in southern New Mexico.

He said an article of impeachment is being drafted by legal counsel. Lujan Grisham, a former congresswoman, began a second term in January and can't run again immediately for a third consecutive term.

The ACLU voiced its own objections to the governor's response to gun violence, expressing fear that it could lead to overzealous policing and infringe on privacy.

"This kind of approach leads to the over-policing of our communities, racial profiling, and increased misery in the lives of already marginalized people," said Lalita Moskowitz, litigation manager for the ACLU of New Mexico. "The governor should be following evidence-based solutions such as meaningful diversion and violence intervention programs and addressing the root causes of violence."

The top Republican in the New Mexico Senate, Greg Baca of Belen, denounced the order as an infringement on the gun rights of law-abiding citizens and Dan Lewis, who serves on the nonpartisan Albuquerque City Council, called it unconstitutional.

The head of the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association, Randy Kozuch, issued a statement on Sunday calling the order a "shocking" act of "administrative fiat" that undermined "the fundamental rights of law-abiding New Mexicans." Gun-toting protesters held a peaceful rally in Albuquerque's Old Town area.

Allen on Monday alluded again to concerns he expressed in a statement late Friday about putting deputies at risk if they sought to arrest people with guns.

"I do not want to have political violence towards my deputies or here in Bernalillo County," he said. "I have enough violence here."

Lujan Grisham said she was compelled to issue her order following recent shootings including the death of an 11-year-old boy outside a minor league baseball stadium last week, the gunfire death of a 5-year-old girl who was asleep in a motor home and an August shooting death in Taos County of a 13-year-old girl.

The firearms suspension was issued as an emergency public health order, reminiscent of the much protested public health orders she continually renewed throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor said the gun ban would apply for 30 days to open and concealed carry in most public places and tied it to a threshold for violent crime rates currently only met in metropolitan Albuquerque. Police and licensed security guards are exempt.

Violators could face civil penalties and a fine of up to $5,000, gubernatorial spokeswoman Caroline Sweeney said. Under the order, residents still could transport guns to some private locations, such as a gun range or gun store, provided the firearm has a trigger lock, a container or mechanism making it impossible to discharge.

Allen said the governor, who was meeting with top law enforcement officials on Friday, sprung on them news of her plan just moments before her news conference. He said he was both shocked and irritated, after law enforcement officials had warned the governor not to go through with it.

"I have to turn my irritation and anger into solutions," the sheriff said, indicating that he would, among other things, push state lawmakers to call for a special session to address the violence in Albuquerque.


Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, Nev., and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, N.M., contributed to this report.

Mortgage Finance Authority allocates over $2.2 million to expand HOME Rehabilitation Program across state – By Jeanette DeDios, KUNM News

The New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority (MFA) has allocated over $2.2 million to fund its HOME Rehabilitation Program which will help serve 25 counties and three Tribal territories in the state.

A recent study published by MFA indicates that over 40,000 homes are in need of rehabilitation statewide.

The HOME Rehabilitation Program provides home repairs or accessibility modifications to homeowners who lack the resources to do them on their own. With this funding, the program helps low-income homeowners ensure that their dwellings meet safety standards and are up to the code.

Leann McDonald, MFA’s HOME Rehabilitation Program Manager said that this year’s funding will impact even more areas of the state than in previous years.

“With the increase in service areas, even more New Mexicans will benefit…furthering our mission of strengthening families and communities and working to ensure all New Mexicans have quality, affordable homes,” she said.

The program will be working with the Southwest Regional Housing and Community Development Corporation as well as the Bernalillo, El Camino, Ohkay Owingeh, and Santa Fe Housing Authorities based on their financial strength, construction and rehabilitation experience, and implementation plan.

To qualify, a person's annual household income must not exceed 80% of the area median income.

No clear penalty for violating N.M. public health order on guns - Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico 

The New Mexico government on Friday enacted a public health order prohibiting people from possessing firearms in public, but could not say what penalties people will face for violating the new directive.

New Mexico Health Secretary Patrick Allen signed a public health emergency order prohibiting anyone from carrying a firearm, either openly or concealed.

The order applies only within cities or counties that have an average of 1,000 or more violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year since 2021 and that have more than 90 firearm-related emergency room visits per 100,000 residents from July 2022 to June 2023.

As of Friday, that meant the order only applied to the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, Lujan Grisham said.

The order also applies to state property, public schools and public parks.

However, the order does not give authorities any power to imprison people. It only specifies that people who violate it “may be subject to civil administrative penalties.” This could include the loss of a permit to carry a concealed firearm, but the order doesn’t specifically mention concealed carry permits.

Asked how the order will be enforced and what the penalty will be for violating it, Lujan Grisham told reporters on Friday afternoon “we’re likely dealing with misdemeanors,” but she was not specific.

“Those are very complicated questions, and we are working with our Department of Public Safety, and our own attorneys and the (District Attorneys),” she said.

She said she doesn’t think the Albuquerque Police Department could enforce the order, but the New Mexico State Police could do so because they’re required to carry out executive orders.

“The purpose is to try to create a cooling off period while we figure out how we can better address public safety and gun violence,” Lujan Grisham said.

It remains unclear how the violent crime and emergency room visit thresholds were determined, whether any other jurisdictions in New Mexico could cross them and how quickly they would be subject to the order if that happens.

The order also directs the New Mexico Department of Public Safety to send state police officers to Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, and to work with local prosecutors to round up people with pending arrest warrants.


The public health order does not apply to any police or licensed security officers.

It also doesn’t apply to private property, licensed gun dealers, gunsmiths, firing ranges, or sport shooting competitions.

Anyone traveling to or from any of the above locations can possess a firearm in public, so long as they keep the gun in a locked container or make it inoperable with a trigger lock or some other safety device.

Every gun owner can get a free trigger lock by calling 505-984-3085 or emailing info@newmexicanstopreventgunviolence.org.

“Responsible gun owners are certainly not our problem — have never been our problem,” Lujan Grisham said.

The order directs the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department to inspect gun dealers every month “to ensure compliance with all sales and storage laws.”

The order also directs the state health and environmental departments to test sewer systems at all public schools for drugs, specifically fentanyl.

It also directs the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department to immediately suspend the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative and to “evaluate juvenile probation protocols.”


Like other public health orders, it will expire after 30 days on Oct. 8, when state officials will decide to either renew it for another month or let it expire.

The order directs the New Mexico Department of Health to compile a report by Sept. 28 on gunshot victims showing up to hospitals in the state.

Lujan Grisham said she anticipates a legal challenge to the order.

“And I can’t tell you that we (will) win it, given all of the different challenges to gun violence laws and restrictions on individual firearm access and control,” Lujan Grisham said. “The point here is that if everyone did it — and it wasn’t legally challenged — you would have fewer risks on the street.”

As of Friday evening, it was not immediately clear who would mount such a challenge, and nothing appeared in a search of online court records.

Lujan Grisham brought up instances where gun violence killed people in public settings this year to argue her reasons for the new order.

“I think it’s time we have a really strong debate about all the other constitutional rights,” Lujan Grisham said. “No one right now in New Mexico — and particularly in Albuquerque — is safe in a movie theater, at a park, at a school, at a grocery store, at an Isotopes game, at the University … getting your prescriptions, at work.”

UPDATE 9/11/23, 4:55 p.m.: KUNM has opted to update Source New Mexico's story here to clarify that the order only prohibits possessing a firearm in public.

Group sues after New Mexico governor suspends right to carry guns in Albuquerque in public - By Scott Sonner, Gabe Stern and Ken Ritter Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's emergency order suspending the right to carry firearms in public in and around Albuquerque drew an immediate court challenge from a gun-rights group Saturday, as legal scholars and advocates said they expected.

The National Association for Gun Rights and Foster Haines, a member who lives in Albuquerque, filed documents in U.S. District Court in New Mexico suing Lujan Grisham and seeking an immediate block to the implementation of her order.

The challenge was expected, but even so, the governor's action Friday was an attempt to "move the debate," said Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Marymount's Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, after Lujan Grisham announced that she was temporarily suspending the right to carry firearms in her state's largest city and surrounding Bernalillo County.

The governor, a Democrat, said the 30-day suspension, enacted as an emergency public health measure, would apply in most public places, from city sidewalks to parks.

She said state police would be responsible for enforcing what amount to civil violations and carry a fine of up to $5,000.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman, who once served as a Democratic party leader and was appointed by Lujan Grisham, on Saturday joined Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Harold Medina saying they wouldn't enforce the order.

"As an officer of the court, I cannot and will not enforce something that is clearly unconstitutional," said Bregman, the top prosecutor in the Albuquerque area. "This office will continue to focus on criminals of any age that use guns in the commission of a crime."

Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said he was uneasy about how gun owners might respond.

"I am wary of placing my deputies in positions that could lead to civil liability conflicts," Allen said, "as well as the potential risks posed by prohibiting law-abiding citizens from their constitutional right to self-defense."

Medina noted that Albuquerque police made more than 200 arrests of suspects in killings in the last two years. Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said enforcing the order also could put Albuquerque police in a difficult position with a U.S. Department of Justice police reform settlement.

Lujan Grisham said she was was compelled to act following recent shootings including the death this week of an 11-year-old boy outside a minor league baseball stadium and gunfire last month that killed a 5-year-old girl who was asleep in a motor home. The governor also cited the shooting death in August of a 13-year-old girl in Taos County.

"No person, other than a law enforcement officer or licensed security officer, shall possess a firearm ... either openly or concealed," the governor's order states.

Levinson told The Associated Press Friday over the phone that Lujan Grisham would draw a court fight, saying the governor was "bumping up against the Second Amendment, no doubt about it."

"And we have a very conservative Supreme Court that is poised to expand Second Amendment rights," Levinson added.

Dudley Brown, founder and president of the Colorado-based gun-rights group, called the governor's action unconstitutional.

"She needs to be held accountable for stripping the God-given rights of millions away with the stroke of a pen," he said in a statement announcing the lawsuit and request for a restraining order. A court hearing was not immediately set.

The top Republican in the New Mexico Senate, Greg Baca of Belen, also denounced Lujan Grisham's order as an infringement on the gun rights of law-abiding citizens. Dan Lewis, who serves on the nonpartisan Albuquerque City Council, called the order an unconstitutional edict.

Lujan Grisham said gun owners still would be able to transport guns to private locations such as a gun range or gun store if the firearm is in a container or has a trigger lock or mechanism making it impossible to discharge.

The governor's order calls for monthly inspections of firearms dealers statewide to ensure compliance with gun laws and for the state Department of Health to compile a report on gunshot victims at hospitals that includes age, race, gender and ethnicity, along with the brand and caliber of firearm involved.

Levinson said she was not aware of any other governor taking a step as restrictive as Lujan Grisham. But she pointed to a proposal by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, to amend the U.S. Constitution to harden federal gun laws.

"I don't think it will be a political loss for (Lujan Grisham) to be overturned," Levinson said. "She can say she did everything she could but was stopped by the courts."

Jacob Charles, a law professor at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law who studies the Second Amendment, noted that the Supreme Court, in the June 2022 Bruen case, expanded the right of law-abiding Americans to carry guns in public for self-defense.

He said that ruling takes away the ability to take into account arguments about a compelling government interest, like the gun violence that Lujan Grisham said prompted her order. Now, judges must solely rely on whether any similar historical examples exist.

"They can't assess whether or not this is going to reduce gun violence. They can't assess whether or not there are other alternatives that government could have done," Charles said. He later added, "What it means is that contemporary costs and benefits aren't part of the analysis."

El Valle fire jumps to 32% containment - By Nash Jones, Bryce Dix KUNM News

A fire that broke out late last week in northern New Mexico’s Carson National Forest about 30 miles northeast of Española has reached 32% containment.

F0rest officials say smoke from the El Valle Fire was first spotted just before 1:oo p.m. Friday. It’s spreading quickly and, as of the latest update, had grown to 521 acres.

The Taos County Sheriff’s Department originally ordered residents of El Valle to immediately evacuate, but has lifted that order.

Meanwhile, the communities of Chamisal, El Valle, Las Trampas, Llano San Juan, Ojitos/Upper Ojitos and Ojo Sarco are in the “set” status, which means creating a plan, packing an emergency supply kit and staying alert for updates.

Hodges, Rodarte, Santa Barbara and Truchas have been put under “ready” status. The state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department advises those getting “ready” to clear dry vegetation immediately surrounding their homes.

Find updates on the fire here

Tribal nations face less accurate, more limited 2020 census data because of privacy methods - By Mike Schneider and Morgan Lee Associated Press

During the 2020 census, Native American leaders across the U.S. invested time and resources to make sure their members were tallied during the head count, which determines political power and federal funding.

But the detailed data sets from the 2020 census they will receive this month are more limited and less accurate than they were in the previous census — and it isn't because the COVID-19 pandemic severely limited outreach efforts.

Rather, it's due to new privacy methods implemented by the U.S. Census Bureau in order to protect the confidentiality of participants, one of which introduces intentional errors, or "noise," to the data.

At stake is the availability and accuracy of data helping tribal leaders make decisions about where to locate grocery stores or schools and estimate future population growth. Census numbers determine funding for social programs, education, roads and elderly care for tribes that have been historically undercounted.

"It was never clearly articulated to them by the Census Bureau that this would be the case, that they wouldn't receive the level of data that they received from the previous census," New Mexico State Demographer Robert Rhatigan said. "In those tribal conversations it was never made clear that the data would not be available, or that it would be so noisy in these smaller areas."

In fact, more than 80% of tribes in the U.S. won't receive the full suite of detailed demographic data from the 2020 census at tribal-area levels they had in the 2010 census because of the changes, according to a report released in August by the Center for Indian Country Development, which is part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Many leaders in Indian Country are unaware they are going to get fewer tables when the detailed data sets are released Sept. 21, said Brandi Liberty, a consultant who helps tribes get federal and state grants.

"It's going to be difficult for a lot of tribes when they need the data," said Liberty, a member of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

The 2020 census put the American Indian and Alaska Native alone population at 3.7 million people; it was 9.6 million for those who identified as American Indian and Alaska Native in combination with another race. The Census Bureau provides detailed data for 1,200 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages.

The privacy changes to the detailed census data "will harm the ability of self-governing tribes to meet the needs of their citizens," the Federal Reserve report said.

The Census Bureau told The Associated Press that it doesn't comment on outside reports but acknowledged the number of tables for tribes in 2020 were reduced from 2010 because of the privacy concerns.

The privacy changes arrive during heightened sensitivities about who controls data from Indian Country.

"The concept of tribal data sovereignty and just data sovereignty in general has been kind of elevated. In a sense, this is their data," Rhatigan said. "You can say that it's a problem for the smaller tribal communities that won't even get the detailed age data. It's possible that the bigger problem comes from the tribes that do receive the data. Nobody knows … how inaccurate those data are."

That's because of the privacy method, known as "differential privacy," uses algorithms to create intentional errors to data by adding or subtracting people from the actual count in order to obscure the identity of any given participant in a particular area.

The Census Bureau has said the differential privacy algorithms are needed because, without them, the growth of easily available third-party data combined with modern computing could allow hackers to piece together the identities of participants in its censuses and surveys in violation of the law.

The statistical agency already has released 2020 census data used to draw political districts and determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets.

Differential privacy's impact on accuracy is greatest when population totals are broken down by race, age and sex, making it harder to understand demographic changes in individual tribal areas, the Federal Reserve report said.

Also complicating the availability of detailed tribal census data are new population thresholds by the Census Bureau. The thresholds determine how much data tribes, or racial or ethnic groups, get for a particular area.

In 2010, in order to protect people's identities, a tribe or a racial or ethnic group in any particular geography like a county needed at least 100 people to get all 71 available data tables. In 2020, "dynamic population thresholds" are being used, with the size of the tribe or racial or ethnic group in a location determining how many data tables they get.

For national or state level data, the 40% of all tribes with less than 500 people across the U.S. will receive only country or state-wide population totals, keeping them from getting the more detailed data they got in 2010. At the tribal-area level, 80% of tribes will only receive population totals instead of breakdowns of age data reported by sex, according to the Federal Reserve report.

In New Mexico, for instance, only the Navajo Nation — the tribe with the largest reservation, extending into Arizona and Utah — will receive the full suite of data with almost two dozen age categories by sex. Sixteen of the state's 22 populated tribal areas are likely to receive limited data sets breaking down populations into only four age groups per sex. Two Native American pueblos will receive no age breakdowns at all, Rhatigan said.

American Indian or Alaska Native people on reservations were among the most undercounted populations in the 2020 census, with an estimated 5.6% of residents missed, according to an evaluation by the Census Bureau.

The COVID-19 pandemic severely limited the outreach efforts many tribal communities had planned. Many tribes closed their borders in an effort to stop the virus' spread, severely restricting the ability to get a head count. Plus, the digital divide in some tribal communities made responding to the head count difficult during the first census, in which participants were encouraged to answer census questions online.

It might have been worse. The Census Bureau earlier contemplated eliminating detailed tribal tables altogether, said James Tucker, a voting rights attorney for the Native American Rights Fund.

"It could have been really bad," said Tucker, who is a former chair of a Census Bureau advisory committee. "But they took it to heart to make the data as accurate as possible while balancing that against the privacy concerns."

Police release the name of the child killed in an Albuquerque road-rage shooting – Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News

The Albuquerque Police Department Friday released the name of the child shot and killed in a road-rage incident near Albuquerque’s Isotopes park earlier this week.

The Albuquerque Journal reports 11-year-old Froylan Villegas was struck in the head when a passing vehicle fired 17 shots into the truck he was riding in with his family. Police believe the shooting stemmed from an altercation over something like an improper U-turn.

Police say the child’s aunt, who was injured in the shooting, is considered to be in unstable condition at the hospital.

Villegas’ mother and brother, who were also in the truck, were uninjured.

Police continue to search for the suspect, and are asking the public for help. Last week, APD released photos of the suspect’s vehicle — a newer model black Dodge Durango SRT.

From piñata to postage stamp, US celebrates centuries-old Hispanic tradition - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The U.S. Postal Service on Friday rolled out its latest special edition postage stamps, paying homage to a tradition with global roots that has evolved over centuries to become a universal symbol of celebration.

The release of four new stamps featuring colorful piñatas coincides with a monthlong recognition of Hispanic heritage in the U.S. and the start of an annual festival in New Mexico where the handmade party favorites are cracked open hourly and children can learn the art of pasting together their own creations.

Piñatas are synonymous with parties, although their history is layered and can be traced to 16th century trade routes between Latin America and Asia and the efforts of Spanish missionaries to convert Indigenous communities to Christianity. It was through dance, music and the arts — including the making of piñatas — that biblical stories were spread throughout the New World.

Piñatas became a key part of celebrating Las Posadas — the festivities held each December in Mexico and other Latin American countries to mark the birth of Christ. The religious origins are evident in the classic piñata designs of the seven-point star and the burro, or donkey, said Cesáreo Moreno, chief curator at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.

"Those early missionaries really were creative in the ways in which they wanted to teach the biblical stories to the Indigenous people," Moreno said. "Nativity scenes, piñatas, posadas — all those things really worked well. They worked so well that they became a part of the popular culture of Mexico."

And they still are part of the Mexican and larger Hispanic communities, whether it's in Chicago, San Antonio or Los Angeles, he said.

"Culture has no borders. Wherever community gathers, they have their culture with them. They bring it with them and so the piñata is no different," he said.

Piñatas imported from Mexico line parts of Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. In Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, people have turned their kitchen tables and garages into makeshift piñata factories, turning out custom shapes for birthday parties and special events.

Inside Casa de Piñatas in Albuquerque, giant characters hang from the ceiling and crowd the walls. For more than half his life, shop owner Francisco Rodríguez has been bringing to life super heroes, dinosaurs, sea creatures and other animals with strips of old newspaper and a simple paste of flour and water.

Some customers come from El Paso, Texas, and others from as far away as Michigan.

Rodríguez stared out the window, watching traffic zip by as he waited for his work to dry. With residue still on his apron and the fans blowing, he contemplated the future of the industry, hoping the next generation will take an interest in the craft.

He said many older piñata artists have retired or closed up their shops and he's concerned the materials needed — like newspapers — will be harder to get as more things go digital.

It's likely piñatas will keep evolving as they have over the centuries. No longer are they made from clay ollas — used for hauling water or storing food — that would make a loud pop when cracked. Gone are the shards that would litter the ground as children scrambled for the tangerines, pieces of sugar cane and candy that poured out.

The stamps were inspired by the childhood memories of graphic designer Victor Meléndez, who grew up in Mexico City and remembers spending days with cousins and other relatives making piñatas to celebrate Las Posadas. His mother also would make piñatas for birthdays.

"That's a dear, dear memory of just fun and happiness," he told The Associated Press as he took a break from painting a mural in Seattle. "And I wanted to show a little bit of that and pay homage to some of those traditions."

Meléndez's artwork also is influenced by the colors of homes in Mexico — bright pinks and deep blues, yellows and oranges.

This marks the third consecutive year the U.S. Postal Service has issued a collection of stamps dedicated to Hispanic culture. Previous collections highlighted mariachi music and Day of the Dead.

Designing the stamps was certainly a dream project for Meléndez, who is known for his murals and design work for Starbucks. He's been a longtime fan of stamp work, having collected what he described as a ton of little bits of paper just because he likes the art.

Meléndez hopes the new stamps will ignite conversations and encourage people to learn about other cultures. They might discover they have more in common, he said.

"In the end, I feel that there must be a connection and there must be some sort of mutual understanding," he said. "That eventually leads to better relations and more people being happy without fighting."