Firearms Preemption Laws

Posted on December 16, 2006

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Anti-gun proposals at the federal level receive the most attention, but similar proposals and restrictive ordinances at the local level also threaten honest gun owners` rights and the fundamental American principle of equal protection under the law for all citizens. Local ordinances more restrictive than the laws of a state may also violate the "right to keep and bear arms" protections afforded by that state`s constitution, as well as the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.1

The problem with local firearm ordinances is also one of sheer variety. Where no uniform state laws are in place, the result can be a complex patchwork of restrictions that change from one local jurisdiction to the next. But it is unreasonable to require citizens, whether residents of a given state or persons passing through or visiting a state, to memorize a myriad of laws. Where so many ordinances exist, citizens with no criminal intent are placed in jeopardy of running afoul of restrictions they don`t even know exist. This can affect hunters, target shooters and firearm collectors who travel through multiple jurisdictions on the way to hunting areas, shooting ranges, and exhibitions. Additionally, individuals who travel with firearms for personal protection are at risk of breaking the law simply by crossing from one municipality to another. If charged with a violation of an obscure local ordinance, the honest gun owner faces, at the very least, great expense and devotion of time to clearing his or her good name in court, and retrieving any firearms and other property confiscated by law enforcement officials.

To prevent the problems associated with restrictive local ordinances, 46 states have enacted "firearm preemption laws"--laws that prevent local jurisdictions from imposing ordinances more restrictive than laws passed by the state legislature and, in some cases, rescind local ordinances to ensure uniform firearm laws statewide.2

The NRA works with gun owners and lawmakers to enact preemption laws in the few states that still permit local ordinances more restrictive than state law. To ensure uniform firearm laws throughout your state and to guarantee equal rights for all, support statewide firearms preemption.

1. The constitutions of 44 of the 50 states contain provisions protecting the right to arms. The six states the constitutions of which do not contain such provisions are California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York. (Wisconsin adopted its constitutional amendment in 1998.) The District of Columbia, as a federal jurisdiction, is protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

2. Hawaii, Illinois and Nebraska do not have statewide firearm preemption of local ordinances. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York have preemption through judicial ruling, not statute. In Massachusetts, local ordinances may be imposed if approved by the state legislature.

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