A group of New Mexicans filed a lawsuit Thursday afternoon against two state officials who rejected numerous attempts to start the process to overturn laws passed in this year’s legislative session.
The lawsuit, filed by former Libertarian attorney general candidate Blair Dunn on behalf of a group called the New Mexico Patriot Advocacy Coalition, asks a state district court judge in Curry County to deem actions taken by the two elected officials as unconstitutional. The lawsuit claims New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, in consultation with state Attorney General Hector Balderas, violated the rights of New Mexicans by denying 10 attempts to overturn recently passed laws. The state constitution allows for a referendum process in which petition signatures are gathered to overturn laws, though the process is rarely used and has only been successful once in state history.
Previous attempts by House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, to overturn gun restriction laws were also rejected. Townsend’s three attempts were denied by Toulouse Oliver for what she called technical errors and on the grounds that the state’s process for referendums to reverse laws does not apply to laws “providing for the public peace, health and safety.” One of Townsend’s attempts to overturn a gun background check law is among the ten instances the coalition says Toulouse wrongfully denied. The other petition attempts, filed by the coalition, aimed to overturn laws ranging from the recent minimum wage increase, election changes and a law that shot down the ability for local governments to enact right-to-work laws.
The third time was not the charm. For the third time in just over a month, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver rejected a Republican petition for a referendum to overturn the law that would require background checks for nearly all gun purchases. Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, submitted the second amended petition on April 12. The petition fixed a technical problem related to the filing. But the Secretary of State found the larger issue is still that the law is not eligible for a referendum under the state constitution according to Toulouse Oliver.
When retired U.S. Navy Captain and astronaut Mark Kelly asked nine high school students how many knew someone who had been shot, all of them raised their hands. The students were from Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe and two schools on tribal land. He said that’s the first time every student raised a hand; it’s usually closer to 50 percent when he asks that in other states—and closer to zero percent in other developed nations. Three of the students later said they had been shot at themselves . Kelly appeared with his wife, former congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Albuquerque on Tuesday.
Partially paralyzed and speaking in just a few simple sentences, a former U.S. congresswoman shot in the head six years ago during a rampage that left a half-dozen people dead delivered the most high-profile endorsement yet of two gun-control bills being considered in the New Mexico Legislature. “I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line,” Gabrielle Giffords told a crowd of reporters and gun-control advocates at the Capitol on Wednesday. “Now is the time to come together — to be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone.” Giffords’ appearance at the Legislature demonstrated the campaign for gun control is not letting up during the final weeks of the session.
A 29-year-old Albuquerque man was accused of firing a .45-caliber pistol multiple times at a car carrying a couple and their 2-month-old baby. Last year, the man was charged with several felonies stemming from the September 2015 incident in Northern New Mexico. He pleaded not guilty and was released from jail on bond. One of the conditions of his release prohibited him from possessing firearms.
Just two weeks later, however, the suspect responded to an online ad for an AK WASR-10 rifle. He repeatedly called and texted the would-be seller, offering to pay $300 in cash.
A House committee on Saturday advanced a bill that would expand required background checks to include most gun purchases in New Mexico. After a hearing that lasted more than three hours, the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-1 along party lines in favor of House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos. The committee’s action mirrored that of a Senate panel that last week approved an identical proposal, Senate Bill 48. While the New Mexico Legislature is moving toward expanding mandatory background checks, Congress is heading in the other direction. The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted 235-180 to scuttle an Obama-era rule requiring background checks for gun purchases by some Social Security recipients with mental disabilities.
House Democrats staged a sit-in that lasted well into Thursday morning. The two Democrats in hte U.S. House from New Mexico took part in the sit-in. The Democrats sought a vote on a piece of legislation related to guns dubbed “no fly, no buy” which would bar those on terror watchlists from purchasing guns
The Democrats did not get their way when it came to a vote on the bill before the House adjourned for a recess for the 4th of July, but did get a likely secondary objective: a confrontation with House Republican leadership. Sen. Udall, Rep. Lujan Grisham and I on floor calling for vote to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists pic.twitter.com/ZkCE4nxcWA
— Ben Ray Lujan (@repbenraylujan) June 22, 2016
The bill itself has a New Mexico connection—U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is one of those who negotiated the compromise with Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Heinrich said the sit-in could be helpful.
In the wake of the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs that left three dead and the San Bernardino, California shooting that left 14 dead, there is a renewed focus on gun ownership. It’s well-known that gun sales in the United States spike after mass shootings that receive national attention. The two recent shootings are no exception. This leads some to wonder how many guns, exactly, there are in each state and how many people own guns in each state. The question isn’t exactly cut and dried, and varies depending on what study you read.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham continues to put the issue of reducing of gun violence on the front burner. The Democratic congresswoman from Albuquerque announced on Friday that she joined a task force on gun violence prevention. She also wants the House to create a Select Committee on Gun Violence. “I look forward to working through this task force to push for common-sense legislation that finally addresses the gun violence epidemic,” Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Since the leadership in Congress has failed to do anything, I am joining my colleagues to call for a Select Committee that leads to decisive action.”
The House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force is chaired by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and was created following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
The U.S. Senate is taking another crack at legislation to curb gun violence, a week after a shooting at an Oregon community college that left nine dead. Both U.S. Senators from New Mexico expressed support for the principles behind the legislation. The Senate introduced the legislation on Thursday with a letter from sponsors Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Debbie Stabinow, D-Mich. The letter was sent to their Senate colleagues, including both Democratic Senators from New Mexico. From NBC News:
The changes would “bolster the background check system by strengthening it and stopping those who try to evade it,” the letter said.