New Mexico bishop defends governor’s controversial gun ban


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Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 12, 2023 / 13:30 pm (CNA).

Archbishop John Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in a Monday statement defended the New Mexico governor’s recent controversial executive order banning the carrying of guns in the state’s most populated county.

“I believe Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is correct to point out the crisis we are experiencing in Albuquerque and the County of Bernalillo,” Wester said, adding that “the number of gun deaths we witness here is deplorable and tragic. I hope we can come together in New Mexico to address this issue.”

“In my view, the governor has been consistent in addressing gun safety through legislation and is not now attacking the Second Amendment,” Wester went on. “She knows the law. Rather, I believe she is trying to get us to solve what has become a crisis in our state.”

“I do not see the governor’s call to action and discernment as a threat to the Constitution,” Wester said. “The focus should be on the sanctity of human life. That is the point.”

The order, issued by Lujan Grisham on Sept. 7, temporarily suspends the right of citizens to bear arms in public in Bernalillo County, home to New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque.

Lujan Grisham issued the order following the deaths by shootings of several Albuquerque children in recent months. The order suspended the carrying of guns by citizens for 30 days and was given on the grounds that gun violence in the state constitutes a “public health emergency.”

The public health order issued by Patrick Allen, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health, in conjunction with the governor’s office stated that “no person, other than a law enforcement officer or licensed security officer, shall possess a firearm … either openly or concealed, within cities or counties averaging 1,000 or more violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year.”

In his official statement, the public health secretary said that “temporary firearm restrictions, drug monitoring, and other public safety measures are necessary to address the current public health emergencies.”

The measure stirred immediate controversy in the state and across the nation.

New Mexico citizens have held several protests in the streets of Albuquerque in which they openly carried pistols and various types of rifles.

The Albuquerque mayor and police chief have signaled that they will not enforce the gun ban and that they will leave it to state authorities to do so.

Shortly following the release of the order, Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said that though “every lost life is a tragedy, and the well-being of our community is of paramount concern to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office” the temporary ban “challenges the foundation of our Constitution.”

In a Monday press conference, Sheriff Allen said he believes the order is “unconstitutional” and that “in reference to concealed carry and open carry,” the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department “will not enforce this segment of the order.”

Responding to the criticism, Lujan Grisham said during a Friday press conference that if there is an emergency, “no constitutional right, in my view, is intended to be absolute.”

Despite the county police department’s refusal to enforce the order, Source New Mexico reported that Lujan Grisham is planning to find other ways to enforce her measure.

“The order is being enforced, and citations will be forthcoming from the state police,” Caroline Sweeney, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham’s office, was reported saying on Monday.

The office added that they would not be providing additional details “to ensure officer safety.”

Bishop Wester is the only Catholic prelate to have weighed in on the controversy thus far.

In the past, both the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope Francis have advocated for stricter gun control laws.

Following the deadly 2021 shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Francis said that “it is time to say ‘enough’ to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons” and called for “all [to] make a commitment so that tragedies like this cannot happen again.”

“I hope to hear more of an outcry over an 11-year-old boy killed by a bullet fired in a road rage incident than over the right to carry a gun,” Wester said in his release.

The Santa Fe bishop concluded his statement by calling on the faithful in his diocese and across the whole Church “to keep the victims of gun violence in your prayers so that we might take steps to solve the tragedy of gun violence in our society.”

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  1. As so many have said, “Criminals don’t follow the law and this usurpation of the Constitution only disarms the law-abiding. Look at the Feds own data on this. There is a reason why gun-free zones are favorites of killers.

    The bishop as well as our fact-free Pope are being ignorant at best.

  2. Interesting that the Archbishop is fine with Governor Grisham’s temporary suspension of the 2nd amendment for public safety reasons. I wonder if he was of the same opinion when the 1st and 14th amendments “right to assemble” were suspended and churches closed down during Covid for the same reason?

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