The New Mexico chapter of Moms Demand Action, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s volunteer network, today released the following statement after reports that a man was shot and wounded Monday evening during a protest and demonstration to remove the statue of Juan de Oñate, in front of the Albuquerque Museum. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the shooting occurred after peaceful protesters clashed with a man who began using pepper spray, and then “appeared to have pulled a gun and fired about five shots.”
“It’s our right as Americans to assemble, and we should be able to do so without the fear of being shot,” said Emilie De Angelis, a volunteer leader with the New Mexico chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Armed militias prowling the streets to stand in the way of change are the farthest thing from patriotic. Armed intimidation, and the open carry loophole that allows it, are unacceptable and put the lives of New Mexicans at risk.”
The statue of Juan de Oñate, a Spanish conqueror known for “excessive violence and cruelty,” has been viewed as a symbol of racial injustice, and similar statues have been removed in other parts of New Mexico. The shooter responsible for Monday evening’s violence was arrested with “a number of members with the New Mexico Civil Guard, a self-described militia,” according to KOB4 News. Governor Lujan Grisham issued a statement condemning the violence and U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich has called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the shooting.
Open carry is a dangerous policy opposed by the public. A visible gun has been found to make people more aggressive; therefore, open carry makes it more likely that disagreements will turn into violent conflicts. The open carry of loaded firearms during any demonstration increases the likelihood that such an event will escalate into a dangerous or deadly situation. In a majority of states, including New Mexico, open carry is legal by default; there is no law forbidding it, but also no law permitting it.