Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver denied the state’s House Republicans’ call for a statewide referendum on Senate Bill 8 through a rarely used provision of the state constitution, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
Republicans cited from the state constitution that “the people reserve the power to disapprove, suspend and annul any law enacted by the Legislature.” But Toulouse Oliver said that exceptions were allowed on laws regarding “public peace, health, and safety,” according to the New Mexican.
The legislation, which Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law March 8, requires background checks for nearly all gun sales, including when buying from private citizens, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The measure is set to go into effect in July. State law already required licensed dealers to conduct the checks.
State Republicans contended that voters have the right to have their voices heard on the law, and were considering legal action.
“To say they don’t have the right to vote on this, to voice their opinion, is not how we’re supposed to operate,” House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, told the New Mexican. “People want to be included in this.”
Dozens of counties in the state have already declared themselves a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” in opposition to the Democratic-sponsored legislation. The New Mexico Sheriff’s Association previously called the laws unenforceable, saying they would punish law-abiding citizens.
State Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, one of the bill’s sponsors, has said the measure was “about saving lives” and preventing criminals from getting guns. He told the New Mexican that a chance for a referendum was “just another shot in the dark.”
Only three referendums for repeal of a law have gone to public vote since New Mexico gained statehood in 1912 — each one falling short of overturning legislation, the New Mexican reported, citing the Legislative Council Service.