New Mexico Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

  • Legal to Carry Openly: Any knife except automatics or butterfly knives
  • Legal to Carry Concealed with Permit: Dodgy legal status, see below

New Mexico Knife Law Overview

New Mexico is frankly a pretty mixed bag state for knife carry as far as “free” states go: prohibited types of knives, restricted concealed carry, flimsy or technically non-existent legal protection with the current statutes concerning concealed carry, and what language there is extremely far-reaching in its portent, making it liable to be used against you.

But on the other hand, New Mexico courts have avowed that “common” pocketknives are okay to conceal, and there is statewide preemption statutes in place, so you at least always know what you are going to get place to place.

In the sections below we’ll look at the most important New Mexico state statutes.

Relevant New Mexico State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • New Mexico State Constitution, Article 2 Section 6
  • NMS 30-1-12
  • NMS 30-7-2
  • NMS 30-7-2.1
  • NMS 30-7-8

The New Mexico State Constitution does affirm the rights of the citizenry to keep and bear arms. That’s nice, but they aren’t exactly setting the world on fire with their leniency.

In fact, they went out of their way to expressly dunk on concealed carry in their constitution. Wow! Article 2, Section 6 of the New Mexico State Constitution reads:

“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.”

That is not exactly confidence inspiring. While our forefathers would have been stacking bodies by now, we labor along, happy little peons, asking permission for what kinds of knives we can carry. Ah, well. Moving on, definitions is next.

It is imperative you always head to the definitions of any chapter and section of law you care to read in a state’s legal statutes; common meanings may be broadened, skewed or shrank ‘til words don’t mean exactly what they do in everyday discourse.

This can drastically change the interpretation of the laws as written! Do your homework, and yourself a favor, and look up the definitions that accompany the statutes. You can find New Mexico’s below in 30-1-12:

30-1-12. Definitions.

As used in the Criminal Code [30-1-1 NMSA 1978]:

A. “great bodily harm” means an injury to the person which creates a high probability of death; or which causes serious disfigurement; or which results in permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any member or organ of the body;

B. “deadly weapon” means any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded; or any weapon which is capable of producing death or great bodily harm, including but not restricted to any types of daggers, brass knuckles, switchblade knives, bowie knives, poniards, butcher knives, dirk knives and all such weapons with which dangerous cuts can be given, or with which dangerous thrusts can be inflicted, including swordcanes, and any kind of sharp pointed canes, also slingshots, slung shots, bludgeons; or any other weapons with which dangerous wounds can be inflicted;

“Great bodily harm” is a concept we are all doubtless familiar with in the context of self-defense and defensive force law.

Under B., New Mexico joins another long line of wilting violet states in lumping every conceivable knife under the umbrella term of “deadly weapon,” either by type or by capability: any, any knife is capable of inflicting dangerous cuts and the huge majority can inflict a dangerous thrust. You’ll note that the above covers all kinds of typically forbidden knives and things like sword-canes as well.

The section covering the carry and possession of the aforementioned deadly weapons is in two parts- 30-7-1, which defines the deed, and 30-7-2 which expands on the offense and its exemptions. Both are just below the break:

30-7-1. “Carrying a deadly weapon”.

“Carrying a deadly weapon” means being armed with a deadly weapon by having it on the person, or in close proximity thereto, so that the weapon is readily accessible for use.

This can easily be construed as having it in a bag, backpack, or other piece of luggage set handily nearby. More to come in 30-7-2:

30-7-2. Unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon.

A. Unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon consists of carrying a concealed loaded firearm or any other type of deadly weapon anywhere, except in the following cases:

(1) in the person’s residence or on real property belonging to him as owner, lessee, tenant or licensee;

(2) in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance, for lawful protection of the person’s or another’s person or property;

(3) by a peace officer in accordance with the policies of his law enforcement agency who is certified pursuant to the Law Enforcement Training Act [29-7-1 NMSA 1978];

(4) by a peace officer in accordance with the policies of his law enforcement agency who is employed on a temporary basis by that agency and who has successfully completed a course of firearms instruction prescribed by the New Mexico law enforcement academy or provided by a certified firearms instructor who is employed on a permanent basis by a law enforcement agency; or

(5) by a person in possession of a valid concealed handgun license issued to him by the department of public safety pursuant to the provisions of the Concealed Handgun Carry Act [29-19-1 NMSA 1978].

B. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the carrying of any unloaded firearm.

C. Whoever commits unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

Okay, the section is short, but the implications are big. Concealed carry of any deadly weapon, that being anything except a “common pocketknife,” if you can figure out what that is definitively, is illegal, and a petty misdemeanor, except it you have it in your vehicle, at your home or other piece of property you own or are leasing, or if you have a concealed handgun license.

Handgun License. Therein lies the rub; while it is taken in NM that a CHL allows one to carry knives concealed on or about your person, the statutes elsewhere that pertain to the license itself say it pertains only to handguns. The state’s handgun laws do not include knives anywhere. Say what?!

Do you want to take a chance of being tagged with a crime thanks to some shoddily assembled legal verbiage? I am not judging, but you should know the risks.

Speaking of risks, you’ll be taking a big one if you get caught with a switchblade, which also unfortunately includes gravity knives and butterfly knives due to the way the statute is worded. This is a misdemeanor, but there are no exceptions. 30-7-8 reads:

30-7-8. Unlawful possession of switchblades.

Unlawful possession of switchblades consists of any person, either manufacturing, causing to be manufactured, possessing, displaying, offering, selling, lending, giving away or purchasing any knife which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, or any knife having a blade which opens or falls or is ejected into position by the force of gravity or by any outward or centrifugal thrust or movement.

Whoever commits unlawful possession of switchblades is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

It is not out of the question that assisted opening knives could be swept up in that category, too. Pay careful consideration to your choice of knife in New Mexico, permitted or not.

No-Go Zones

Schools and potentially universities. The statute on universities only makes mention of firearms being forbidden, but as we have already seen, New Mexico is not the most cogent or consistent with its statutory language.

And New Mexico Says it is a felony to do so at any school aside from a university, so once again, choose carefully. Both sets of restrictions are laid down in Chapter 30, Sections -7-2.1 and -7-2.4 respectively:

30-7-2.1. Unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises.

A. Unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises consists of carrying a deadly weapon on school premises except by:

(1) a peace officer;

(2) school security personnel;

(3) a student, instructor or other school-authorized personnel engaged in army, navy, marine corps or air force reserve officer training corps programs or state-authorized hunter safety training instruction;

(4) a person conducting or participating in a school-approved program, class or other activity involving the carrying of a deadly weapon; or

(5) a person older than nineteen years of age on school premises in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance, for lawful protection of the person’s or another’s person or property.

B. As used in this section, “school premises” means:

(1) the buildings and grounds, including playgrounds, playing fields and parking areas and any school bus of any public elementary, secondary, junior high or high school in or on which school or school-related activities are being operated under the supervision of a local school board; or

(2) any other public buildings or grounds, including playing fields and parking areas that are not public school property, in or on which public school-related and sanctioned activities are being performed.

C. Whoever commits unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

30-7-2.4. Unlawful carrying of a firearm on university premises; notice; penalty.

A. Unlawful carrying of a firearm on university premises consists of carrying a firearm on university premises except by:

(1) a peace officer;

(2) university security personnel;

(3) a student, instructor or other university-authorized personnel who are engaged in army, navy, marine corps or air force reserve officer training corps programs or a state-authorized hunter safety training program;

(4) a person conducting or participating in a university-approved program, class or other activity involving the carrying of a firearm; or

(5) a person older than nineteen years of age on university premises in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance, for lawful protection of the person’s or another’s person or property.

B. A university shall conspicuously post notices on university premises that state that it is unlawful to carry a firearm on university premises.

C. As used in this section:

(1) “university” means a baccalaureate degree-granting post-secondary educational institution, a community college, a branch community college, a technical-vocational institute and an area vocational school; and

(2) “university premises” means:

(a) the buildings and grounds of a university, including playing fields and parking areas of a university, in or on which university or university-related activities are conducted; or

(b) any other public buildings or grounds, including playing fields and parking areas that are not university property, in or on which university-related and sanctioned activities are performed.

D. Whoever commits unlawful carrying of a firearm on university premises is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

Preemption

The preemption law is written into the State’s very constitution, quoted above at the beginning of the article- “No municipality or county shall regulate, in any way, an incident of the right to keep and bear arms.”

This is nice, but as it turns out the state has already done a pretty good job of making things a pain in the butt all on their own. At least you won’t have to contend with multiple sets of bothersome laws, just one set that goes from border to border!

Bottom Line

New Mexico’s laws regulating knife carry are restrictive, poorly worded, unclear and shabbily implemented. A person without a permit can carry no knife concealed unless in their car, home or place of business.

A person with a permit is ultimately left wondering as to whether or not they’ll wind up a test case in court for carrying a weapon not covered by their concealed handgun license. It is a sad state of affairs, even if it isn’t the worst in the Union.

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