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  • Are Short-Barreled Rifles or Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal in New Mexico?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    Are Short-Barreled Rifles or Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal in New Mexico

    When people hear the term sawed-off shotgun, they often conjure a picture of gangsters and criminals. TV and movies have long demonized sawed-off shotguns. However, many law-abiding citizens legally possess sawed-off shotguns and short-barreled rifles. Generally, state gun control laws restrict firearms sales, possession, and use, and the regulations vary widely in the 50 states. However, certain guns are restricted by the federal government as well.

    Although New Mexico does not prohibit certain firearms, the federal government does.When owning any firearm, you have a duty to understand the state and federal laws surrounding that particular type of gun. “I didn’t know” is generally not an acceptable excuse in the eyes of the law. New Mexico is considered an open-carry state, meaning it’s legal for most adults to carry guns openly in public without a license. However, you do need a permit to carry a concealed, loaded firearm.Today, we’ll attempt to answer the question, Are short-barreled rifles or sawed-off shotguns illegal in New Mexico? But first, let’s look at what those weapons actually are.

    If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices.

    What Is a Short-Barreled Rifle?

    Simply put, a rifle is considered a short-barreled rifle if it has a barrel length of fewer than 16 inches.

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) defines a short-barreled rifle (SBR) as a rifle having one or more barrels less than 16 inches in length. Further, any weapon made from a rifle, whether by alteration or modification, that has an overall length of fewer than 26 inches is considered an SBR. In other words, an SBR either has one or more barrels that are fewer than 16 inches in length or an overall length of fewer than 26 inches. 

    What Is a Sawed-Off Shotgun?

    A sawed-off shotgun or short-barreled shotgun refers to a shotgun having one or more barrels less than 18 inches long. It can also be any weapon made from a shotgun that you alter or modify to have an overall length of fewer than 26 inches. 

    The difference between the short-barreled rifle and the short-barreled shotgun is splitting hairs. The overall length requirements are the same; the only difference is two inches in barrel length. Both have been villainized in movies and stories over the years, so it is important to know what you have and whether it is legal o own such items. 

    Why the Special Attention to Short-Barreled Shotguns?

    Although it is clear Hollywood has somewhat romanticized sawed-off shotguns and rifles over the years, these weapons pose legitimate concerns. Short-barreled or sawed-off shotguns are illegal in many states for several reasons. Perhaps most importantly, they are considered uniquely dangerous because of their capability and concealability. The shortened barrel length makes an otherwise bulky, hard-to-hide gun easily concealable and portable. 

    Even in open-carry states like New Mexico, the federal government keeps a close eye on these firearms. 

    What Are the Current Laws for Purchasing a Short-Barreled Rifle?

    New Mexico does not prohibit the ownership or purchase of a short-barreled rifle. Federal law states that, in the absence of local statutes prohibiting their ownership, a private citizen may own a short-barreled rifle or shotgun as long as they adhere to specific provisions of ownership. 

    The purchase and ownership of these weapons fall under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and must be registered with the ATF. Individual owners wanting an NFA item will have to get a background check, including fingerprints. They may also have to obtain the signature of their local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (e.g., Chief, Sergeant, etc.). You will also have to pay the $200 NFA tax before possessing or building the firearm.

    Are Sawed-Off Shotguns Illegal in New Mexico?

    New Mexico law does not strictly prohibit sawed-off shotguns. However, under federal regulations, specific requirements, as discussed above, must be met to possess a sawed-off shotgun legally. 

    Furthermore, specific individuals are not permitted to possess any firearms in New Mexico. Specifically, New Mexico prohibits individuals convicted of felonies from receiving, possessing, or transporting a gun within 10 years of completing a sentence or probation. New Mexico law prohibits anyone under 19 from knowingly possessing or transporting a handgun. However, individuals under 19 can have a long gun (e.g., shotgun, rifle).

    New Mexico also enacted legislation to permanently prohibit some individuals convicted of domestic violence or subject to an active domestic violence protective order from possessing firearms.

    Can I Carry a Concealed Firearm in New Mexico?

    Most individuals can lawfully carry an unloaded concealed firearm in New Mexico. However, you can be charged with a petty misdemeanor in New Mexico if you carry a concealed, loaded firearm or another deadly weapon. In New Mexico, the unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon specifically consists of carrying a concealed loaded gun or any other type of deadly weapon anywhere. But there are some exceptions. It is legal to have a loaded weapon in the following places:

    • In your own home;
    • In a private automobile or other private means of conveyance, for lawful protection of yourself, your property, or another person or their property;
    • By peace officers under the policies of their law enforcement agency;
    • By peace officers following the policies of their law enforcement agency who are employed temporarily by that agency and who have completed a course of firearms instruction (in the police academy); or
    • By a person possessing a valid concealed handgun license.

    Unlawfully carrying a deadly weapon is a petty misdemeanor. 

    Federal Short-Barrel Charges

    Under Federal law, the possession of an unregistered silencer, short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun, destructive device, or a sawed-off shotgun is punishable by a fine of up 

    to $10,000, 10 years in prison, or a combination of the two. 

    Federal gun charges, as with state charges, should be taken seriously. Prosecutors pursue these charges harshly, and you need an adept, knowledgeable, and well-versed criminal defense attorney to defend you.  

    New Mexico Criminal Defense Attorneys

    Contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices if you are looking for more information on sawed-off shotguns or short-barreled rifles or if you have been charged with a crime under state or federal law. We are happy to answer any questions and provide a free consultation. Gun charges are serious. The illegal use or possession of a firearm can wreak havoc on your life. Protect yourself by getting a sharp and aggressive criminal defense attorney to defend your rights. Contact us today!