Last Updated March 15, 2011

The police power of municipalities and counties in New Mexico is limited in the area of firearms regulation. The following sentence was added to Article II, § 6 of the Constitution of New Mexico in 1986: “No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms.”

In Baca v. New Mexico Dept. of Public Safety, 2002-NMSC-017, 132 N.M. 282, 47 P.3d 441, the Supreme Court of New Mexico held that New Mexico Statutes Annotated § 29-18-11(D), subsequently repealed, which delegated authority to local governments to disallow the carrying of concealed handguns, violated article II, § 6.1 According to the supreme court, article II, § 6 indicates the state’s intent to have uniform firearms regulation throughout the state, rather than piecemeal local regulation.2 The court concluded that the manner in which a person bears a weapon is an “incident of the right to bear arms” under article II, § 6.3

The only other interpretation of the preemptive effect of article II, § 6 is set forth in an opinion of the Attorney General of New Mexico. The Attorney General has opined that prior to the adoption of the last sentence in article II, § 6 in 1986, local governments had police power authority to enact reasonable firearms regulations, but that the amended article II, § 6 removed that authority.4 Further, the opinion defines an article II, § 6 “incident” of the right to keep and bear arms to include the transfer of weapons.5

The provisions of New Mexico’s Sport Shooting Range Act (N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 17-8-1 – 17-8-6) “shall not prohibit a local government from regulating the location and construction of sport shooting ranges after July 1, 2002.”6

Notes
  1. Baca, 2002-NMSC-017, ¶ 13, 132 N.M. 282, 47 P.3d 441. ⤴︎
  2. Baca, 2002-NMSC-017, ¶ 6, 132 N.M. 282, 47 P.3d 441. ⤴︎
  3. Baca, 2002-NMSC-017, ¶ 7, 132 N.M. 282, 47 P.3d 441. ⤴︎
  4. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 90-07 (1990), 1990 N.M. AG LEXIS 5. ⤴︎
  5. Id. at *4-*5. ⤴︎
  6. N.M. Stat. Ann. § 17-8-5. ⤴︎