AP NEWS

Elections regulator nixes referendum on gun control law

March 22, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Republican-led attempt to challenge a new gun control law with a statewide referendum was rejected Thursday by New Mexico’s top election regulator, who said such petitions don’t apply to public safety legislation.

In a letter to Republican House minority leader James Townsend of Artesia, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said the new law to expand background checks to nearly all private gun sales was designed to improve public safety and therefore falls under an exemption from petition referendums.

The law “bears a valid, reasonable relationship to the preservation of public peace, health or safety,” Toulouse Oliver wrote. “Therefore the law is constitutionally excluded from referendum.”

Several legislative proposals this year to restrict gun possession in the interest of safety have generated a backlash from county sheriffs and others who say the measures will be difficult to enforce and do little to address gun violence. Those sentiments have been amplified as many county commissions have passed “2nd Amendment sanctuary” ordinances in support of sheriffs.

Townsend and Republican minority House whip Rod Montoya of Farmington began laying groundwork for the petition referendum before the background bill was signed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this month.

Townsend said Thursday in a statement that politics were at play in the decision by Toulouse Oliver, also a Democrat.

“We are fully prepared to take the actions necessary, including legal action, in order to protect the Constitutional rights of all New Mexicans,” he said.