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Know the Laws: New Mexico

UPDATED May 5, 2016

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Below is information about state gun laws in New Mexico.  A restraining order or criminal conviction may make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply.  To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. Please click on the NM Where to Find Help page to find domestic violence organizations and lawyers in your area. 

The Abuser Isn’t Supposed to Have a Gun…Now What?

back to topWho do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our NM Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in New Mexico on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer.

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our NM State and Local Programs page.

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.*

* United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating state and federal firearm laws?

If someone who has been convicted of a felony is in possession of a gun, s/he could be committing a felony in the fourth degree and sentenced to up to 18 months in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.* (However, if ten years have passed since the person completed serving his/her sentence or period of probation, then this state law may not apply** but it would still be illegal under federal law for a convicted felon to possess a firearm.)   

It can also violate federal law for someone to have a gun when there is a protection order against him/her.  For more information, see our Federal Gun Laws page.

* N.M.S.A. §§ 30-16-7(A),(B); 31-18-15(A)(13),(E)(11)
** N.M.S.A. § 30-16-7(C)(2)(a)

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back to topWhat will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from buying a gun.  Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.  Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales.  

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate.  Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

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