The mayor of Albuquerque is encouraging New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to call a special state legislative session on gun violence, following the governor’s ban on carrying firearms in his city, which thrust it into the heart of the country’s gun-rights debate.
Last week, Lujan Grisham declared a 30-day suspension of firearm carry laws in New Mexico’s largest city and surrounding county, infuriating gun-rights advocates, drawing criticism from fellow Democrats and law enforcement who called it unconstitutional, and emphasizing the state’s violent crime rates, which are among the highest in the country.
In a letter to Lujan Grisham dated Tuesday and seen by Reuters, Mayor Tim Keller said to fight gun crime he needed a special legislative session 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, a Democrat, wrote.
Lujan Grisham suspended open and concealed gun carry laws in a Friday public health order, two days after 11-year-old Froylan Villegas was killed and his cousin Tatiana Villegas, 24, paralyzed from the waist down when bullets hit their car as they left an Albuquerque Isotopes minor league baseball game. The shooting was apparently an act of road rage.
That came weeks after five year-old Galilea Samaniego was shot dead in her sleep when teenagers stole cars and fired at her west Albuquerque home in a drive by shooting.
Gun violence kills around 500 people a 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.
Lujan Grisham is in favor of a ban on so-called semi-automatic assault weapons, among other gun control measures, and her office welcomed Keller’s call for a special legislative session.
“This is exactly what we need to see from leadership,” said the governor’s spokeswoman Caroline Sweeney.