New Mexico sheriff refuses to enforce governor's gun ban

Democratic candidate for governor Michelle Lujan Grisham sits down for a meal at Barelas Coffee House on midterm elections day in Albuquerque

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) - A New Mexico sheriff on Monday refused to enforce Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham's ban on the right to carry firearms in the state's largest city and the surrounding county, saying it was unconstitutional and could spark political violence.

In response to the recent shooting deaths of children, Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, on Friday imposed the 30-day suspension of the right to carry guns, either concealed or openly, in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County in a bid to curb shootings.

The move enraged gun-rights proponents across the United States. At a rally on Sunday in downtown Albuquerque, protesters openly carried rifles and pistols.

Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen said he did not want to endanger his deputies by making them enforce the ban.

"This order will not do anything to curb gun violence other than punish law-abiding citizens who have a constitutional right to self defense," Allen said at a press briefing.

Some Democrats, including U.S. Representative Ted Lieu of California, also voiced opposition to the order as a violation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear firearms.

Lujan Grisham last week declared gun violence a public health emergency after an 11-year-old boy was shot dead in Albuquerque, apparently in an act of road rage. Albuquerque has suffered record numbers of homicides two years running.

The second-term governor said concealed and open carry of firearms were state laws she had jurisdiction over, giving her the right to issue a civil order to address a rise in gun violence across the state. Her order was immediately challenged in U.S. district court by a Colorado gun rights group.

Albuquerque police chief Harold Medina said state police, rather than his officers, would be responsible for civil violations of the order which carry a fine of up to $5,000.

New Mexico State Police has not issued any citations, spokesman Ray Wilson said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; editing by Lincoln Feast.)