When I crossed the border into New Mexico from Arizona on I-40 this summer, I stopped at the Manuelito Visitor Center/Rest Area. I saw the rest area rules and read them. The line at the bottom of paragraph 2. said: ALL FIREARMS MUST REMAIN IN VEHICLES. New Mexico has a strong pre-emption law, enforced by their Supreme Court . . .

Rest areas, according to handgunlaw.com(pdf) are not prohibited areas.

Rest areas can be a dangerous place for travelers, especially single women. In 1998, two local Arizona organizations, Brassroots and S.A.F.E., joined forces to protest the illegal signs at the Sacaton rest area near Tucson. Within a month, Arizona DPS employees were busy removing the prohibition from Arizona rest area signs. The bad signs at the Arizona rest stops had identical wording to the New Mexico signs in paragraph 2, where the prohibition on firearms outside of the vehicle is listed.

Arizona continues to correct the odd old/bad sign that is found in place.

Recently, Second Amendment activists fought the Alabama Department of Transportation, won the support of Governor  Bentley, and had illegal “No Weapon” signs taken down from Alabama rest areas. The similarity of the signs makes me wonder if someone in New Mexico made a conscious decision to ban firearms in rest areas, or if they simply copied a design for rest area signs.

A quick search of the New Mexico DOT web site did not come up with any reference to rest area rules. I contacted the NM DOT. The person that I talked to knew that licensed concealed carry was legal in New Mexico, and that people did not need a license for open carry. They were uncertain where the wording had come from, but agreed that it might have been something that was historical and simply continued. They agreed to pass the query along.  I expect to hear back before too long.

Anyone who has pictures of signs at other New Mexico rest areas, please let me know so that we can document them.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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25 Responses to Are New Mexico Gun Bans at Rest Areas Legal?

  1. You know how all signs are supposed to look the same on every interstate highway? I’d be willing to believe it was simply a case of monkey see monkey do (or at least monkey copy,) and that the vetting process for the sign’s contents wasn’t all that strict.

  2. That’s why my first nap when driving east is at that last rest stop on the Arizona side of the border. A very nice place. After that I try to make it to that rest stop a little past Amarillo, near Alanreed, but if I have to stop again in NM it’s at a truck stop near Moriarty, not a state-run rest stop. If I get some good sleep in Texas I can make it to Missouri.

  3. I conceal carry. Since I am “concealing” or hiding my firearm I don’t really give a hoot what a sign says. Do bad guys care? Heck no! They walk around with there gun completely un-concealed ready to harm and kill innocent people. So I going to be completely honest. You might hate what I say, but it’s the truth none the less. I am a plane jane white guy that blends in to the background. Therefore police don’t look at me twice. Sorry God made me an average white guy! Being an average white guy I can conceal carry my handgun where ever I want. (Except the obvious places that have a metal detectors, x-ray, or someone that pats you down) I also make enough money I can afford a good lawyer. So I have a bad problem of “accidentally” never seeing a “No Weapons allowed” or “Gun Free Zone” sign

    • So do you give your money to businesses that do not support your rights?

      I am a white bearded freak. I can also conceal anywhere I want to. I stick out a bit but most are looking at my beard not my belt line. But I choose not to support businesses that do not wish to support my right to be arms.

  4. Wish I had known about this two months ago. Went through NM four times, three times along the I-40 corridor and came back along I-10 till Las Cruces then headed towards Roswell and headed on towards Amarillo. Didn’t even stop to look at the signs. Ooops, walked the dog and went to walk myself, made a sandwich and left.

  5. When I worked for NM Dept. of Corrections, during orientation it was pointedly pointed out that near every prison in the state is a rest area (may have since changed). Unless the signs are portable Kevlar, they can kiss my asterisk! During Summer in the Southern part of the state you need at least 9mm for protection from the insects.

  6. Here is a good case as to why NM rest stops are dangerous:

    http://www.elpasotimes.com/ci_23848763/anthony-rest-stop-shooting

    This happened in 2010, the victim was a 20 year old on his way from San Antonio to CA.
    I remember reading that the victim was also armed with a .22, but never got off a shot.

    This rest area is not far from where I live, and I’ve been foolish enough to stop at this rest area in my younger days on my way back from El Paso after a night of partying.

  7. To ease everyone’s fears. the Gun Free Zone sign was erected along with a Safe Passage Zone sign for greater public safety as a sensible and reasonable precaution. It was only Gunsense to protect from Gunviolence. Children do frequent the rest stops along the highway and they must be protected from Gunbullies. A Mom’s right to feel safe with their children trumps the NRA.

  8. That’s why I slept with my 9mm on my chest while sleeping in the front seat of my truck at the dark and creepy truck stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico. Homie don’t play that! “16 in the clip and 1 in the hole, Jeff bout to make some bodies cold”

  9. I had to travel thru NM this summer. Like most of the SW, it’s sliding into 2nd world status and doesn’t feel like the USA.

  10. I have long avoided rest stops in NM. Dirtiest and most rundown in the Rocky Mtn west. I too use the east most AZ stop to avoid using the rest stops in NM.

  11. Not sure why the signs are worded as they are. No such laws that I am aware of and not mentioned in CCW laws/rules that are available online.
    Will email my state representative to ask why and to get it fixed.
    Open carry is legal. Concealed with permit is legal. Concealed with out is a misdemeanor.

  12. I was part of the effort in Alabama to get the illegal signs down here. Ours were even worse as they said “NO WEAPONS” which could include many items perfectly legal to carry without any kind of permit or permission from the state such as O.C. spray, a pocket knife, a blackjack etc. However, Gov. Bentley only became an ally when the Atty. Gen. started investigating why the signs were posted (there is a provision in our firearms law that requires him to do that if public property has been illegally post as a Gun Free Zone). Within 24 hours, Gov. Bentley “Tweeted” that the signs would be down before sun up.

    But the question remains, why did his appointed Dept. of Transportation Director put them up. Why did it take the Gov. 18 months to over-ride the DOT and take them down? Why was the DOT Director so arrogant when people called him? What is the deprivation of a Constitutional Right for 18 months worth?

    As mentioned, a rest stop is the one place where you need to carry your gun. From gay sex being exchanged in the woods in the back, to prostitution, to the new trend: convicted sex offenders living around rest stops as (In my opinion) these stupid residency laws have driven them away from every place that they could live (the laws are stupid and expensive in that 80-90% of sex offenders molest their own family members or close friends, not some child walking to school).

    There is a basic concept in the law that “an unconstitutional law is no law at all”, this isn’t even a law and actually purports to be a “Rule” but apparently is not., I am frankly surprised that some local legal scholars have not taken fine grit sandpaper and Rustoleum of the same color of the sign and corrected the legal and factual inaccuracies on that sign without damaging it..

    Short of a filing a declaratory judgement (which is a good option, fairly cheap) a couple of dozen protesters could call the news and if New Mexico allows open carry stay their and dare the authorities to arrest them. That would also get it before a court.

  13. I do know that even with a cc permit I’m not supposed to carry into a rest stop in Utah. I have no clue where the grayed edges of that line lay but it’s still plenty lame.

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