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Sec. of State rejects gun control petition

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Next step for GOP-led effort > House Republicans to meet today, consider legal options

By Jill McLaughlin

A Republican-led attempt to recall a newly signed gun control law by statewide referendum hit a roadblock Thursday when the New Mexico Secretary of State denied a draft petition on grounds that it did not satisfy legal requirements.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Thursday the proposed petition failed to meet legal requirements on five grounds.

The petition, filed March 7 by New Mexico House of Representatives Minority Leader Rep. Jim Townsend (R-Artesia) and Minority Whip Rod Montoya (R-Farmington), seeks to repeal Senate Bill 8, which was passed and became law. The bill requires background checks between individuals for nearly all private gun sales in the state.

The law to expand background checks against a federal database of prohibited buyers has generated a backlash from county sheriffs and others who say it will be difficult to enforce and do little to address gun violence. At one point, 28 counties and municipalities in the state had passed gun sanctuary resolutions in defiance to the legislative gun control measures.

Four of the secretary’s points appeared to be minor technical matters, such as failing to submit a suggested popular name and adding a signature on a page where none was required.

A fifth requirement noted a constitutional law citation that argues differing definitions of “public peace, health, and safety.”

Toulouse Oliver used Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s press releases and contemporaneous public statements made by gun control advocates during the legislative session regarding gun control bills as evidence that the petition did not legally meet the constitutional requirements.

“The Secretary of State has a duty to the people of this state on matters regarding petitions. It is incredibly unfortunate that politics has played into this decision,” Townsend said.

Townsend said the Republican caucus planned to meet Friday to discuss the secretary’s decision.

The first step would be to attempt to address the five irregularities Toulouse Oliver outlined in her letter, Townsend said. If they can’t come to an agreement with the secretary of state, they would consider legal action.

“We believe four of those are immediately curable,” he said. “My first recommendation is that we try to cure those issues that are noted. If we can’t come to an agreement, I am going to recommend that we follow our attorney’s advice and that we begin a process of a remedy through court.”

The 24 House Republicans are planning to roll out a full-service, statewide petition and voter registration drive once the issue is resolved.

“What we’re planning is to have Second Amendment rallies across New Mexico that people can go in and sign the petition, register to vote, change their address and change affiliation. We want it to be a full-service issue,” Townsend said. “We’re going to marshal these Second Amendment rallies and we’re going to work on this. We believe this is an issue that’s going to help our state.”

Townsend said he was just leaving a Carlsbad City Council meeting where about 1,068 signatures were presented in a petition to city councilors in support of another Second Amendment sanctuary resolution. He said there were just as many Democrats as there were Republicans at the meeting.

“This is not about Republicans and Democrats and independents,” Townsend said. “This is about rights.”