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Secretary of state again rejects gun petition

SANTA FE – House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, said Friday that “every option is on the table” after New Mexico’s secretary of state rejected – for the second time – his petition to overturn a new gun law.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, has twice rejected the petition, citing legal barriers. The state Constitution, she said, bars petitions for the repeal of “laws providing for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety” – a category that covers the legislation requiring background checks before gun sales.

Townsend submitted a revised version of the petition after Toulouse Oliver rejected the first one last month. But Toulouse Oliver said the underlying constitutional prohibition still applies.

Townsend, in turn, said he and other Republicans have considered legal action, among other options.

“I’m going to continue to fight to allow New Mexicans to have a direct say on this far-reaching legislation that will restrict their constitutional rights,” Townsend said in a written statement Friday. “Every option is on the table.”

He is seeking to put the background checks legislation, Senate Bill 8, before voters through a rarely used referendum process. No law has been repealed by referendum in New Mexico since 1930, according to legislative staff.

Under Senate Bill 8, the state will require background checks before nearly any firearm sale in New Mexico, including transactions between private individuals, starting in July.

If the petition were to be approved, Townsend and other opponents would have to gather a certain number of signatures from voters in counties throughout New Mexico to secure a spot on the ballot.