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Gun law critics launch petition website

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Critics of a new state law requiring background checks to be conducted for most gun sales have launched a website, part of a strategy to build public support for scrapping the law through a statewide referendum.

State Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, Minority Leader in the New Mexico House Representatives, said Tuesday members of the House Republican caucus built and launched the website late last week.

GoRogueNewMexico.org allows New Mexican residents to sign an online petition or print out petitions to be circulated that call for the repeal of Senate Bill 8 (SB 8). The law — set to go into effect July 1— mandates that federal background checks be conducted for all gun sales conducted in New Mexico for “a fee or other consideration.”

Federal firearms dealers, sales between law enforcement officers and guns gifted to family members are exempt from the law’s requirements.

The name of the site is in reference to a remark tweeted Feb. 26 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, where she referred to sheriffs who said they would not enforce the law as “rogue sheriffs throwing a childish pity party.”

“Rogue sheriffs” is a term that has since been embraced by many of the law’s critics.

Townsend said Tuesday the website is meant to provide people with a vehicle to show opposition to law, and help move forward with an effort to scrap the law through a statewide referendum.

“Almost 200 people have requested petitions so they can start collecting signatures and many are going online to sign,” he said.

Since February, Townsend has led a push to repeal the law through a statewide referendum. Maggie Toulouse Oliver — New Mexico Secretary of State and a Democrat — has thwarted several attempts to move forward with the referendum process.

She has rejected several drafts of language needed for petitions used to gather signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Toulouse Oliver has argued that under the Constitution of the state of New Mexico, the law is not subject to the referendum process because it bears a valid, reasonable relationship to the preservation of the public peace, health or safety.

Townsend though said it is the courts and not the Secretary of State’s office who have the power to decide if a law meets that threshold. He said people are frustrated with Toulouse Oliver’s position regarding the referendum.

The petitions on the website will not lead to a statewide referendum and Townsend said the petitions are not likely to change Toulouse Oliver’s position. However, he said the website will allow New Mexicans to express themselves on the issue and act as evidence of what he said is the public support for repealing SB 8 at the ballot box.

Townsend added that he has not filed suit yet against the Secretary of State’s office to get the measure on the ballot, but he and other critics are keeping their options open.

“We’ll see if the support continues, as I believe it will and then go from there,” he said.

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