Preemption laws threaten local firearm regulations and may prevent local officials from protecting their community from gun violence.

Local laws are vitally important to prevent gun violence. Each community has its unique issues, dangers, and dynamics when it comes to gun violence. When state governments take regulatory action away from lower level governments, it creates a dangerous gap between the people passing laws and those living with them every day.

Preemption laws prevent lower level governments from passing gun safety laws in their own community.

Typically, these laws are passed at the state level. The extent of the law varies from state to state. The broadest state preemption statutes threaten public safety because they ignore local variations, make enforcement of gun laws more difficult, and prevent innovative solutions to gun violence.

For the majority of our nation’s history, localities have generally had the authority to enact their own firearm regulations to keep their communities safe. However, in recent years, many states have explicitly removed that authority from localities based on the gun lobby’s lies.

Preemption laws threaten public safety and make it even more difficult for local officials to protect their communities from gun violence.

  • In 2021, Boulder, CO’s, assault weapons ban ordinance was overturned by a Colorado state court because of the state’s strict preemption law. A few days later, a 21-year-old shot and killed ten people at a King Soopers grocery store with an assault weapon.
  • In 2023, a 25-year-old armed with an AR-15 he purchased six days earlier shot and killed people and injured 8 others. Following the shooting, the mayor of St. Louis spoke out about how Kentucky’s strict preemption law prevents him and the city council from passing laws to keep their community safe.

Some states have taken it as far as to place personal liability and – in some cases – removal from office on local officials to prevent them from addressing gun violence. For example, under Florida’s preemption law, local officials who implement any gun safety rules or regulations are subject to fines up to $5,000.

Summary of State Law

With the exception of Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, each state has some variation of a preemptive authority on firearm regulation. State laws vary significantly in how and to what extent they preempt the regulation of guns and ammunition. Typically, these laws operate in two ways: express and implied preemption.

Express preemption is when a state explicitly states that it intends to remove a lower government’s ability to regulate firearms through a statute or constitutional provision. For example, [insert state example]

If there is not an express statement, courts can infer an intent to take away a lower government’s ability to regulate firearms. This is known as implied preemption. Courts may decide that a local law is preempted because it directly conflicts with state law. For example, when a state has comprehensive gun regulations, many state courts believe that the state legislature is indicating an intent to have exclusive authority.

The degree of express and implied state preemption laws on guns and ammunition differs from state to state. For example, both Colorado and California have limited preemption statutes that only prohibit localities from creating regulations that apply to only some types of gun policies. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s preemption law effectively eliminates localities’ ability to pass gun policies.


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