Anti-gun activists describe preemption as a ‘doctrine whereby a state has stripped local governments of their power to regulate guns’. Although preemption laws are not a new thing, the increase in media attention surrounding gun control continues to grow, making preemption laws concerning firearms a major topic of discussion.
Interestingly, the Constitution of the United States does not specifically mention local governments at all. In fact, the local government has no powers unless a state delegates the power to them via charters/statutes. However, most local governments are given power under the Tenth Amendment, which awards authority-giving powers to the states. Historically, though, this power has typically been used to regulate public welfare and safety via local police forces.
Most people are familiar with state preemption laws that have been enforced all over the United States in an effort stop local governments from passing unwanted laws on important issues, so that a consistent policy remains throughout the state. Currently over 40 states have laws prohibiting individual localities from enacting laws that restrict firearms, ammunition, and firearm components.
Withholding power of local governments allows unity of policy in the state, which means a lot less red tape and conflicting rules and laws for the public and businesses. In the case of firearm preemption laws, this means that Second Amendment rights are upheld and will not get overturned or distorted due to local policies. According to Chris Cox, the NRA-ILA executive director, these firearm preemption laws help to protect gun owners “from harassment by an unreasonable and confusing patchwork of municipal gun laws… so that the state legislature, rather than every town, village, and burg, has the sole ability to control state police powers that are clearly of general concern.”
A recent court case spotlights a scenario where the city of Seattle implemented a “gun-free” policy which meant that there would be a ban of firearms in city owned and operated public places such as sports fields, community centers, and playgrounds. Concealed carry permittees in Seattle sued the city and won. They were effective in having the polices overturned for violating the preemption law as well as another statute that authorized persons with a valid permit to carry “for the purposes of protection or while engaged in business, sport, or while traveling” unless otherwise prohibited by state law.
This case confirmed that the local government acted in excess of their limits of authority. Since that time, legislators in the state have introduced bill SB 6146, which repeals the state preemption law altogether. The new bill states the need to “restor[e] inherent local authority to adopt firearms regulations” so that individual localities can “address the epidemic of firearm violence in their communities.”
Gun control proponents say that having local control of firearm laws sets the path for “customized solutions” to crimes involving guns and fills “regulatory gaps” at both federal and state levels. Guns rights activists however, fear the impact this bill will have if passed. Once each locality has the power to adopt its own laws, concealed carry permittees will have to follow any firearm and ammunition bans and restrictions in place when they enter different towns and jurisdictions when they go to work, shop, or travel about.
~ Firearm Daily