AP Photo/Yakima Herald-Republic, TJ Mullinax, File
It was a pretty bold plan. Republicans in New Mexico sought to take the gun control fight to the next level. With all of the county officials who seemed to be vehemently opposed to these measures, there was a good chance that the people of those counties were also opposed.
So, they wanted the gun control bills on the ballot so that those very same people could send a message. I mean, it could backfire, but the worst case scenario was to get the same gun control laws the state was going to end up with anyway.
Unfortunately, the Secretary of State for New Mexico rejected the petition.
A Republican-led attempt to recall a newly signed gun control law by statewide referendum hit a roadblock Thursday when the New Mexico Secretary of State denied a draft petition on grounds that it did not satisfy legal requirements.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Thursday the proposed petition failed to meet legal requirements on five grounds.
The petition, filed March 7 by New Mexico House of Representatives Minority Leader Rep. Jim Townsend (R-Artesia) and Minority Whip Rod Montoya (R-Farmington), seeks to repeal Senate Bill 8, which was passed and became law. The bill requires background checks between individuals for nearly all private gun sales in the state.
The law to expand background checks against a federal database of prohibited buyers has generated a backlash from county sheriffs and others who say it will be difficult to enforce and do little to address gun violence. At one point, 28 counties and municipalities in the state had passed gun sanctuary resolutions in defiance to the legislative gun control measures.
Four of the secretary’s points appeared to be minor technical matters, such as failing to submit a suggested popular name and adding a signature on a page where none was required.
A fifth requirement noted a constitutional law citation that argues differing definitions of “public peace, health, and safety.”
Now the GOP in the state has to take a step back and discuss how to proceed.
Four of the points should be easy to clear up. The fifth may be a bit of a sticking point, though. Still, the party isn’t giving up and will hopefully be able to negotiate something with the Secretary of State.
But I’m skeptical.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the strategy is great. While I generally oppose ballot initiatives, anti-gunners love them and have used them to great effect in states like Washington. By putting something like this on the ballot, you open up the possibility for citizens to tell lawmakers how they feel. A rejection of this during a referendum would likely shut down gun control efforts in the state for years.
After all, politicians tend to be a pragmatic lot. If they know they risk losing an election, they tend not to advance those bills.
I don’t think the secretary of state has any compelling reason to allow this to advance, and while four of the five points are technical things required by law but easily fixed, the fifth is one that I can easily see her refusing to budge on. Especially when doing so is likely not just to hurt her party, but her chances for higher office.
Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am.
If I’m not, the next option would be to take this to court, which could go either way. Still, the stakes are high enough that it’s worth the risk. Again, the worst case scenario is they end up stuck with the same laws they already have. The chance to overturn them is definitely worth the risk.