Rights groups sue N.M. Gov. Grisham over COVID-19 gun shop shutdown


A coalition of gun rights groups including SAF and NRA have sued New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham over shutting down gun stores during the coronavirus crisis. (Dave Workman)

Four gun rights organizations—the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association, Firearms Policy Coalition and New Mexico Shooting Sports Association—have filed a federal lawsuit against New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, challenging her closure of gun stores during the coronavirus outbreak.

The four organizations are joined by two businesses and three private citizens. They are represented by attorneys Patrick J. Rogers, Albuquerque; Cody J. Wisniewski, Lakewood, Colo.; Adam Kraut, Sacramento, Calif., and Michael T. Jean, Fairfax, Va. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico and is known as Aragon v. Grisham.

In addition to Gov. Grisham, also named as a defendant is Kathyleen Kunkel, secretary for the New Mexico Department of Health, both in their official capacities. The Department of Health is also a defendant.

The 35-page complaint opens with this declaration:

“New Mexico’s government cannot suspend the Constitution and Americans’ individual freedoms. The suspension and deprivation of natural and constitutionally protected rights and liberties by governmental fiat is unlawful.”

“This lawsuit challenges Defendants’ mandatory shuttering of lawful retail firearms businesses,” the document continues. “By arbitrarily, capriciously—and unconstitutionally—targeting those who lawfully sell firearms and ammunition, New Mexico is depriving citizens of their natural and fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”

In a prepared statement announcing the lawsuit, SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb asserted, “Gov. Grisham simply can’t suspend the Second Amendment. Of course there is an emergency, but such emergencies do not nullify the Constitution, even temporarily. We cannot allow public officials to put their personal agendas above the rights protected by the Constitution, and that includes the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”

FPC President Brandon Combs added, “The government has no duty to protect you and coronavirus-related impacts to law enforcement could be significant,” added, “so times like now are precisely when people must be able to acquire self-defense tools to defend their lives and homes. We are proud to participate in this important case to defend the People’s right to keep and bear arms against government abuses in New Mexico.”

Attorney Kraut, who is also FPC Director of Legal Strategy, observed, “Unfortunately, we find ourselves having to litigate yet another case where government officials believe that a crisis creates an exception to an enumerated constitutional right. We are happy to join with our friends from various organizations to defend the People of New Mexico’s right to keep and bear arms.”

For all three gun rights groups, it has been a busy month since the coronavirus pandemic first started causing state-level government-ordered shutdowns of so-called “non-essential businesses.” In several states, anti-gun governors have included gun stores among the businesses to be shuttered, causing Second Amendment organizations to swing into action.

Twenty-four hours earlier, SAF, FPC and Commonwealth Second Amendment took Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to federal court in that state on essentially the same complaint. Baker, a Republican, has been unfriendly to gun rights since taking office, according to Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, which is not a plaintiff in that case, but is supporting the effort.

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