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Gun groups file suit over closure of gun shops, ranges

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations on Friday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for closing gun stores in New Mexico during the COVID-19 crisis.

The NRA and the other plaintiffs filed the case in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, claiming the governor, as well as the state Department of Health and Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel, violated citizens’ Second and 14th amendment rights for not considering firearm stores “essential.”

As a result of Lujan Grisham’s order, all firearm-specific retailers and gun ranges in New Mexico are closed.

“It’s very important that, even in a situation such as this, people are able to exercise their basic and most fundamental rights,” said Cody Wisniewski of Mountain States Legal Foundation, one of the firms representing the plaintiffs.

Lujan Grisham extended the closure of many in-person businesses on Monday, including firearm stores, until April 30 in order “to minimize the spread of COVID-19.”

Zachary Fort, president of the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association and one of the plaintiffs, said Lujan Grisham’s order goes against federal guidelines for what’s considered essential.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued guidance March 28 stating that firearm retailers and shooting ranges should be considered essential, but specified the guidance was “advisory in nature.”

All firearm purchases in New Mexico require in-person background checks, which Wisniewski said makes gun stores essential in order for people to buy guns.

“We’re not suggesting that they will operate as normal,” he said, adding stores can operate under federal social distancing guidelines.

The governor’s office wrote in a statement Friday it had not read the lawsuit, but reiterated that firearm stores cannot be open during the public health emergency.

“While we as an administration unequivocally support the constitutional right to purchase a firearm, we recognize that right does not correspond to a right to congregate in a store and infect neighbors,” spokesperson Nora Meyers Sackett wrote.

New Mexico is the latest in a series of states sued by the NRA and other organizations for ordering gun stores closed during the crisis.

The NRA is currently suing California and New York, while Pennsylvania and New Jersey reversed decisions to close gun stores following lawsuits levied by pro-gun organizations.

The lawsuit comes days after New Mexico reached its highest monthly total for firearm background checks on record – over 24,000 – according to data from the FBI. Nearly every other state had similarly high numbers.

Lujan Grisham’s administration has enacted multiple gun-related laws during her time in office, including a controversial red flag law that allows the state to take firearms away from those deemed a danger to themselves or others.

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