A proposed administrative rule change being considered by the New Mexico State Parks Division would update a cumbersome regulation that currently prohibits persons with valid permits from carrying concealed weapons in state parks, while permitting unloaded and unconcealed handguns at the 35 state facilities. The proposal is supported by Gov. Susana Martinez's administration and public comments are being solicited through October.
Currently, state park visitors are prohibited by agency regulation from having loaded firearms—including concealed handguns—except during hunting seasons and within park areas where waterfowl and big-game hunting is allowed.
Present park regulations permit concealed and unconcealed handguns that are unloaded.
Only administrative action is necessary to allow concealed carry by permit in state parks, because it is not covered by state statute.
Toby Velasquez, chief of law enforcement and boating safety for the State Parks Division, said the proposed change will bring park regulations into compliance with New Mexico law that allows those with CCW permits to carry concealed handguns in most places in the state, except for courtrooms, schools and bars.
"It was very evident to us that our rule was outdated," Velasquez told wire services this week. "It made sense and it was the right thing to do."
The proposal also reflects a change in policy involving the National Parks System. Since 2010, national parks have allowed visitors with a valid state permits to carry a concealed handgun for personal protection.
The proposed regulation permits firing a concealed handgun within the boundaries of state parks in "self-defense, defense of another person or defense of a dwelling or habitation."
New Mexico has issued about 24,300 concealed handgun licenses since 2004, including one to the state's best-known CCW permit-holder, Gov. Martinez. Historically, New Mexico has permitted open carry of firearms, which continues to be popular among a majority of gun owners in this widely rural and expansive Western state where many persons carry handguns and rifles in their vehicles as part of their daily routine.