Firearms Preemption

Summary

Preemption is the process where a higher level of government revokes the regulatory ability of a lower level of government. While such an action may seem prohibitive to local lawmakers, firearm and ammunition preemption prevents the creation of a confusing patchwork of local laws and ensures that all firearms owners within a state are subject to the same laws, or lack thereof.

Introduction

Preemption is the process where a higher level of government revokes the regulatory ability of a lower level of government. Such action may seem prohibitive for local lawmakers, but with topics such as firearms and ammunition, a policy of preemption is beneficial, keeping responsible gun owners from having to account for a confusing miscellany of local regulations.

Historically, firearms preemption has faced opposition in large metropolitan areas. Local officials cite the differences between rural and urban areas as the reason for needing to repeal firearms preemption, but this “repeal and replace” process only serves to limit the powers of the Second Amendment. Perhaps the most important principle of preemption is its equal distribution of the law. Keeping firearm and ammunition regulations at the state level prevents discrepancies from locality to locality. This ensures that all gun owners in a particular state have equal rights, regardless of location. Firearms preemption not only provides equal treatment for gun owners throughout the state, but also eliminates the risk of committing a crime by crossing a county line. In states without firearms preemption statutes, individuals must understand the intricacies of firearm laws in each county, and failing to do so could lead to responsible gun owners accidently violating local ordinances. For example, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, New York, and Ohio all have local ordinances that restrict magazine capacity differently than the state statutes. Firearms preemption is essential to creating uniformity in the law in order to protect gun owners from unknowingly taking on legal risk.

Points of Interest

  • Prior to the start of the 2019 legislative session there were 43 states with firearm preemption laws.
  • In 2019, both Oklahoma and Texas passes firearms preemption.
  • New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Hawaii have absolutely no laws related to firearms preemption.

Language

The following language is found in successful firearm preemption legislation.

  • State of Washington RCW § 9.41.290: “The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.
  • State of Florida Statutes Chapter 790.33: “Except as expressly provided by the State Constitution or general law, the Legislature hereby declares that it is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition, including the purchase, sale, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, storage, and transportation thereof, to the exclusion of all existing and future county, city, town, or municipal ordinances or any administrative regulations or rules adopted by local or state government relating thereto. Any such existing ordinances, rules, or regulations are hereby declared null and void”

Moving Forward

It is recommended that legislators explore and support firearm preemption legislation in their state to ensure the ability of responsible gun owners to carry and use these important sporting tools, so this ability is not infringed upon by burdensome local legislation. If states are able to pass legislation that clearly defines a firearm and firearm preemption, responsible gun owners will not be threatened by outdated or restrictive laws.

Contact

For more information regarding this issue, please contact Brent Miller at bmiller@congressionalsportsmen.org.

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A key component of the American System of Conservation Funding, the Pittman- Robertson Act directs excise taxes on firearms, ammo, and archery equipment to wildlife conservation. Since its inception in 1937 the Act has generated more than $12 billion towards conservation. However, there has been a loss of 5 million hunters in the past decade. One proposed solution to help fund conservation is to dedicate lottery proceeds for conservation purposes. Would you support this effort in your state?

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