April 12, 2019

SOS rejects petition for referendum to reverse background check law

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A gun show in Houston, TX. Wikicommons.

For the second time, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver rejected a petition to take a gun background check law to the voters.

House Republican leaders hoped to use a voter referendum to overturn a law passed this year, requiring background checks for most gun sales in the state of New Mexico.

New Mexico generally does not allow for voter referendums. But the state constitution allows, under limited circumstances, for voters to attempt to overturn a newly passed law.

Toulouse Oliver said the current proposal does not meet those limited circumstances. She cites the state constitution in saying to determine if the referendum qualifies, it must “[bear] a valid, reasonable relationship to the preservation of public peace, health or safety.”

Toulouose Oliver said she “underwent the process of carefully examining the legislative history, the contemporaneous declarations of the legislature and the conditions sought to be remedied by [the law].”

In March, Toulouse Oliver also listed a number of technical objections to the Republican call for a referendum. The new Republican petition corrected all but one of the problems listed by the Secretary of State.

House Minority Leader Jim Townsend submitted a new petition to the Secretary of State in early April.

In a statement Friday, he said, “If the Secretary of State thinks she can dispatch a couple of letters and make this issue go away, she’s wrong. I’m going to continue to my fight to allow New Mexicans to have a direct say on this far-reaching legislation that will restrict their constitutional rights. Every option is on the table.”

After Toulouse Oliver rejected their first attempt to call for a referendum, the Republicans said that the Secretary of State and Attorney General, who she consulted, lacked the authority to determine if the proposed referendum met the constitutional requirements.

Toulouose Oliver cited three state Supreme Court cases in which the state’s high court affirmed the authority of the Secretary of State and Attorney General.

Still, this could lead to another court battle.

Townsend previously said Republicans were prepared to take legal action after Toulouse Oliver rejected the first petition he submitted.

Even if the petition is approved, Republicans would need to collect nearly 70,000 valid signatures to get the referendum on the ballot.

The county commissions in 25 counties declared themselves “2nd amendment sanctuary states” and 29 of the state’s 33 sheriffs opposed the laws. Attorney General Hector Balderas told sheriffs last week they must enforce laws, even if they personally oppose them.

Update: Added a statement by Jim Townsend.