Remove All Doubt
Monday, January 12
A win for gun rights, but mixed results for statutory interpretation

The New Mexico Supreme Court has turned back a state constitutional challenge to a new law allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons:

The challenge ruled on Monday involves language in the New Mexico Constitution allowing citizens to bear arms, but adding “nothing herein shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons.”

Campbell argued the Constitution therefore prohibited concealed weapons. Attorneys for the state disagreed, saying the line simply means the carrying of a concealed weapon is not constitutionally protected, but is an issue for the Legislature to decide.

Hmmm. From a policy perspective, the court thankfully agreed with the state. But the use of the word "permit" in the constitutional provision does suggest a prohibition. If the drafters wished to leave the issue open to legislative regulation, they should have artfully excluded concealed weapons from the scope of the provision altogether.

This problem is interesting because it's almost a law-school hypothetical testing the boundary between judicial restraint v. judicial activism. Does the court show restraint by deferring to the legislature and the perceived intent of the constitutional provision's drafters? Or are they activist by looking to other sources (including personal opinions no doubt) to trump the text?


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