People For the American Way

Biden Judge Upholds Gun Safety Rules in State Parks and Playgrounds

News and Analysis
Biden Judge Upholds Gun Safety Rules in State Parks and Playgrounds

Judge David Urias, nominated by President Biden to the federal district court in New Mexico, upheld the state governor’s order restricting guns in parks and playgrounds in the Albuquerque area and authorized it to take effect. He denied a request for a preliminary injunction against the order sought by pro-gun  groups. The October 2023 ruling was in We the Patriots Inc. v. Grisham.   


What is this Case About?

 In September 2023, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an executive order declaring a public health emergency due to gun violence. Among other facts, the order noted that New Mexico has “some of the highest rates of gun violence in the nation”, with an increase in the rate of gun deaths of 43% [since when?], compared to 18% across the country. Some provisions apply statewide, such as monthly inspections of firearms dealers. As modified, the order also provides that in areas of high violent crime rates, which currently includes only the Albuquerque area, guns cannot be carried in public parks and playgrounds.

Pro-gun groups challenged the playground and school gun safety provisions in federal court. The case was assigned to Judge Urias who, on September 13, issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the restrictions until he could hear evidence and consider the issue in more detail. He held a hearing in early October on motions for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the order until the litigation was complete.


What did Judge Urias decide and why is it important?

 On October 11, Judge Urias issued a detailed ruling that denied a preliminary injunction against the Governor’s order and authorized the gun safety order to go into effect in Albuquerque area parks and playgrounds.  Urias carefully analyzed the facts and the law and found that, even in light of pro-gun Supreme Court rulings, those challenging the order did not show a “substantial likelihood of success” on their challenge.  With respect to playgrounds in particular, the judge found that based on prior case law and the presence of the “vulnerable population” of “children”, playgrounds may well constitute “sensitive places” that can have firearms restrictions even under the Supreme Court’s new pro-gun  standards.

Judge Urias’ decision is obviously important to gun safety and prevention of violence in New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area. Although the case is not over and may well be appealed, it also provides another significant example of fair-minded lower court judges upholding common sense gun safety rules, even after pro-gun Supreme Court decisions.  The ruling also offers another illustration of the importance of promptly confirming fair-minded judicial nominees like Judge Urias by President Biden.