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.