Gun laws in New Mexico
New Mexico is among states with some of the least restrictive firearms laws in the country. State laws governing the possession and use of firearms include those in New Mexico Statutes Chapter 30, Article 7, "Weapons and Explosives".
|Subject/Law||Long Guns||Handguns||Relevant Statutes||Notes|
|State permit to purchase?||No||No|
|"Assault weapon" law?||No||No|
|Magazine Capacity Restriction?||No||No|
|Owner license required?||No||No|
|Carry permits issued?||No||Yes||NMSA 29–19–4||Shall-issue, with completion of 15-hour handgun safety course that includes live-fire instruction. Permit required to carry concealed loaded firearm on foot. No permit needed for open carry, concealed carry of an unloaded firearm, or transport of a loaded firearm either concealed or openly in a vehicle. Unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm is a petty misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 6 months in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $500. Except for active-duty military members permanently stationed in the state, New Mexico does not issue CHLs to non-residents.|
|Open carry permitted?||Yes||Yes|
|NFA weapons restricted?||No||No|
|State pre-emption of local ordinances?||Yes*||Yes*||As stated in Article 2, Section 6 of the New Mexico Constitution. *Tribal laws on Native American reservations not pre-empted. Additionally, some local jurisdictions have enacted ordinances restricting or banning the discharge of firearms within their boundaries.|
|Castle Doctrine law?||No*||No*||There is no law that specifically address Castle Doctrine or Stand your Ground in New Mexico. However, Castle Doctrine has been established on a limited basis by a 1946 New Mexico Supreme Court ruling, which states that when a person reasonably feels "threatened with an attack need not retreat. In the exercise of his right of self defense, he may stand his ground and defend himself." Currently, the courts have limited the scope of Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground to self-defense situations occurring inside the defender's home, and neither law nor court precedence provides the defender immunity from lawsuits by the aggressor arising from the use of lethal force in self-defense.|
|"Opt-Out" statute?||Yes||Yes||NMSA 29–19–12; NMSA 30–14–6||Property owners may prohibit the carrying of firearms onto property they lawfully possess by posting signage or verbally notifying persons upon entering the property. Violating these "gun-free" establishments is a 4th-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $5,000.|
|Peaceable journey laws?||No||No||Federal rules observed. Federal law pre-empts Native American reservation laws|
New Mexico has state preemption of firearms laws, so local governments may not restrict the possession or use of firearms. However, local jurisdictions may restrict or ban the discharge of firearms within their boundaries. In 1986, Article 2, Section 6 of the state constitution was amended to say, "No law shall abridge the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes, but nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms."
State gun laws do not pre-empt tribal laws on Native American reservations, which cover a significant portion of the state. The only exception to this is when one is traveling through the reservation on a state-owned highway (includes US and Interstate highways), in which case state firearms policies do apply. While some tribes have established gun control policies that match New Mexico state law and honor New Mexico concealed carry permits, other tribes do not recognize any concealed carry permit regardless of where it was issued, and have far more restrictive gun control laws. Tribes with laws that do not match New Mexico state law have policies on open and concealed carry that vary from No-Issue to Shall-Issue, depending on the tribal nation. Some Native American reservations that do allow open or concealed carry (but do not honor the New Mexico Concealed Handgun License) typically have established their own permitting systems, where applications for concealed carry permits are processed and adjudicated by the respective tribal council or tribal police. Permits on such reservations may be available to the general public or limited to tribal members, depending on the tribal nation policies.
Open and Concealed carry
New Mexico is a Shall-Issue state for the concealed carry of handguns, and permits the open carry of loaded firearms without a permit. A Concealed Handgun License (CHL) is required to carry in a concealed manner a loaded handgun while on foot. A CHL is not required for open carry, concealed carry of an unloaded firearm on foot, or concealed carry of a loaded or unloaded firearm while in a vehicle (including motorcycles, bicycles, off-road vehicles, or riding a horse).  An applicant for a concealed carry permit must be a resident of New Mexico and at least 21 years of age. Each permit specifies the category and caliber of handgun that may be carried, but is also valid for a smaller caliber. The applicant must complete a state approved training course that includes at least 15 hours of classroom and firing range time, and must pass a shooting proficiency test for that category and caliber of handgun. A permit is valid for four years, but license holders must pass the shooting proficiency test every two years. New Mexico currently recognizes concealed carry permits from or has reciprocal agreements with the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. New Mexico does not issue CCW permits to non-residents, except for Active Duty military members permanently assigned to a military installation within the state.
New Mexico is a Permissive Open Carry state. Open carry of a loaded firearm without a license is legal statewide, except for restricted places listed in the section below. Provisions in the New Mexico Constitution prevent counties or municipalities from enacting ordinances restricting or banning open carry.
New Mexico's current concealed carry permit law was enacted in 2003. Prior to 2003, New Mexico was a hybrid No-Issue/Unrestricted state, where concealed carry was completely banned in incorporated cities and towns, but open carry has always been permitted statewide. In unincorporated rural areas, concealed carry without a license was legal. In 2001, state lawmakers passed a May-Issue concealed carry law that would have allowed cities and counties to opt-out of honoring concealed carry permits and maintain outright bans on concealed carry. At the time, officials in most larger cities, notably Albuquerque and Santa Fe, strongly opposed the legalization of statewide concealed carry. After the May-Issue law was enacted but before it could go into effect, the City of Albuquerque filed a lawsuit (Baca v. New Mexico Department of Public Safety) to block implementation of the concealed carry law. Ultimately the May-Issue concealed carry law was struck down by the New Mexico Supreme Court before it could go into effect. The current Shall-Issue law, which pre-empted any existing local restrictions on firearms carry, was passed in 2003, with the issuance of Concealed Hangun Licenses beginning later that year, after surviving its own legal challenge by concealed carry opponents.
Additionally, New Mexico law prohibits the carrying of firearms with or without a permit in the following locations or circumstances:
- K-12 schools
- State and federal courthouses, unless specifically authorized by the presiding judge
- State colleges and university campuses, although firearms may be kept in locked vehicles while on campus
- Military installations, except when authorized by the Installation Commander
- Establishments that serve alcohol for on-site consumption
- Private property where owners or tenants state that no firearms are permitted on premises
- Secure areas of airports
- Native American reservations, unless permitted by the respective Tribal Council
- While under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including certain prescription or over-the-counter medications
Even with a concealed carry permit, it is not legal to carry a firearm into a federal building, school, or restaurant that serves alcohol. Carrying of a concealed weapon into a store that sells alcohol for off site consumption is legal, but open carry is not allowed in these locations. The state also has an "opt-out" statute, allowing home and business owners the ability to legally forbid firearms on their property and/or in their buildings with appropriately displayed signage stating such prohibition. While violating these "gun free" areas is a 4th Degree Felony that is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine, it is more common for those who inadvertently carry into such areas to be reprimanded by law enforcement officials and possibly have their concealed carry license suspended or revoked.
New Mexico has an "extended domain" law, which means that a person's vehicle (including motorcycles, bicycles and while riding a horse) is considered an extension of their home. It is therefore legal to carry a loaded firearm without a permit, openly or concealed, anywhere in a vehicle. On foot, no permit is required to carry a firearm unless it is both loaded and concealed.
Concealed carry of an unloaded firearm is legal without a permit in New Mexico, however the same restrictions that apply to openly carried firearms apply. Persons under age 19 cannot carry in this manner unless traveling to certain sporting, recreational or training events as defined in law or on property controlled by parents, grandparents or guardians and under their supervision.
New Mexico currently lacks laws for "Castle Doctrine" and "Stand Your Ground", but Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground do exist on a limited basis through court precedence, which only applies in situations where one uses deadly force to stop an attack inside his or her home. A vaguely-worded castle doctrine law enacted in 1907 was subsequently stuck down by the New Mexico Supreme Court.
However, a 1946 ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court (State v. Couch) held that defense of habitation alone, without specific statute, gave a homeowner the right to meet force with force “for a man’s house is his castle.” As a result of this ruling, judges provide a specific instruction to juries in self-defense cases, which states, “A person who is threatened with an attack need not retreat. In the exercise of his right of self defense, he may stand his ground and defend himself.”
It must be noted that those who lawfully use lethal force in self-defense may still face prosecution and have to reference the 1946 Couch decision as an affirmative defense to any criminal charges arising from the incident. Additionally, one using lethal force in lawful self-defense does not have immunity either through statute or court precedence from potential lawsuits by the aggressor and/or his or her surviving relatives.
An attempt to re-establish Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground in New Mexico failed in 2011, when House Bill 228 and its companion, Senate Bill 29, both died in the their respective chambers of the Democrat-controlled New Mexico Legislature. Had they been enacted, both bills would have granted civil immunity to those who use lethal force in lawful self-defense.
- "State Gun Laws: New Mexico", National Rifle Association – Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- "New Mexico State Law Summary", Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- "New Mexico Statutes, Chapter 30, Article 7, "Weapons and Explosives"". Nmlaws.org. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- New Mexico Has Stand Your Ground for Certain Juries, Albuquerque Journal, July 29, 2013
- "Constitution of the State of New Mexico". Conwaygreene.com. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- New Mexico Department of Public Safety – Information Concerning the Carrying of Concealed Weapons[dead link]
- New Mexico Department of Public Safety – Concealed Carry Rules Amended and Approved, November 17, 2005[dead link]
- "Reciprocity Agreements", New Mexico Department of Public Safety. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
- Kopel, David B. "The Licensing of Concealed Handguns for Lawful Protection: Support from Five State Supreme Courts", Albany Law Review, Vol. 64. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- "Concealed Carry FAQs", New Mexico Department of Public Safety. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- "Section 30–7–3 NMSA 1978, As Amended", New Mexico Department of Public Safety. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- "State Info: New Mexico". OpenCarry.org. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- "New Mexico Gun Rights", About.com Civil Liberties. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
- New Mexico Has Stand Your Ground for Certain Juries, Albuquerque Journal, July 29, 2013