Lawsuit challenges two New Mexico gun laws

Derek Garcia of Albuquerque carries a U.S. flag and an AR-15 while attending a rally for protecting gun rights outside the Roundhouse in Santa Fe in April. Around 130 people, many with guns, attended the rally. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal))

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A conservative coalition filed a lawsuit this week challenging the constitutionality of two new gun laws in New Mexico – one requiring background checks, the other prohibiting the possession of guns by domestic abusers.

The New Mexico Patriots Advocacy Coalition also accused state officials of

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Blair Dunn

illegally blocking their right to petition for the repeal of 10 bills passed in this year’s legislative session, when Democrats held substantial majorities in both chambers.

Blair Dunn, the Libertarian candidate for attorney general last year, filed the six-page lawsuit Thursday in Curry County on behalf of the coalition.

It first asks a judge to authorize the circulation of petitions that would allow opponents of 10 new laws – including the gun legislation – the opportunity to gather enough signatures to force an election on them.

Hector Balderas

In the alternative, the lawsuit asks a judge to declare the two gun bills unconstitutional.

The suit says the approval of the background check legislation, Senate Bill 8, violates the right of New Mexicans to keep and bear arms. The new law interferes with private transactions, according to the lawsuit, by mandating a federal background check before most gun sales.

Another piece of legislation, Senate Bill 328, violates people’s right to due process by requiring them to surrender firearms even if they haven’t been convicted of a crime, the lawsuit says.

The law prohibits gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act. The prohibition also applies to people convicted of certain crimes, such as battery on a household member.

Supporters of the new firearms laws contend the legislation will improve public safety without infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

The patriot coalition’s lawsuit also challenges Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s refusal to authorize the circulation of petitions aimed at repealing the new laws.

“We the People must stand up for our rights under the Constitution,” Jane Martin, a member of the coalition, said in a written statement.

The lawsuit names Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas, both Democrats, as defendants.

Matt Baca, senior counsel in Attorney General’s Office, described the litigation as “frivolous.”

“The Office of the Attorney General looks forward to the swift dismissal of this lawsuit,” Baca said.

In rejecting the petitions, Toulouse Oliver has cited technical flaws and a provision in the state Constitution that exempts laws related to public peace, health or safety from the referendum process.

“I am confident in my determination, made in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, that none of the draft referendum petitions submitted to my Office thus far have met the strict technical and legal requirements that are laid out in the New Mexico Constitution, state statute, and relevant case law,” Toulouse Oliver said in a written statement Friday.

She said she hadn’t been served with a lawsuit yet but had “undertaken careful and considered reviews of all referendum petitions submitted” since the legislative session.

The coalition wants to gather petition signatures to challenge new laws raising the minimum wage, allowing residents to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day, barring counties from enforcing local “right-to-work” ordinances, creating the Energy Transition Act and prohibiting coyote-killing contests, among other bills.

The patriot coalition is a political advocacy group with chapters throughout New Mexico, including Eddy, Roosevelt and Bernalillo counties.

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