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NM secretary of state rejects gun safety referendum

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An effort to repeal a controversial gun control law at the ballot box was shot down Thursday by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

New Mexico House Republicans have tried to initiate a statewide referendum to overturn a law to require background checks for nearly all gun sales.

House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, and House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, sent a letter to the Secretary of State’s office with draft language for petitions to collect signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Toulouse Oliver said in a letter to Townsend Thursday that because the law was designed to protect public peace, safety and health, it cannot be the subject of a referendum.

The New Mexico Constitution provides people the power to disapprove, suspend or annul any law enacted by the Legislature through the referendum process, but laws cannot be subject to a referendum if they were designed to protect the public peace, health or safety.

In her letter, Toulouse Oliver cited several instances where Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other lawmakers said the law is meant to curb gun violence.

She also listed four technical objections she had with the draft language submitted by Townsend.

Townsend said the legal team working to help get the measure on the ballot has said the technical issues Toulouse Oliver cited in the letter are “easily curable.”

He said that when the technical issues are fixed, the new draft petition language will be submitted again to the Secretary of State. If she rejects it again, House Republicans will go to court to get it on the ballot.

“I would tell you, it’s not over yet,” Townsend said Thursday.

Preventing the law from passing was a rallying cry for Republican lawmakers during the 60-day session.

The Democratically controlled Legislature passed and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham — also a Democrat — signed the law during the recent legislative session.

Critics of the law — including a majority of New Mexico county sheriffs — were vocal in their opposition, calling it unenforceable and saying that it would violate the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.