Local Control Over Gun Laws

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Reader Michael Gilson sends this along from Charles C.W. Cooke:

… holding that municipalities are in fact the very best places for laws to be made, tested, and obeyed; and that keeping as much as possible as local as possible is the best way of ensuring that dissenters can choose somewhere else to live without having to leave the country.

The trouble with this view in the modern area, though, is that even in a reasonably small-government place such as Arizona, the sheer size of the state has ruined much of the virtue of local variation. If we lived under only a few laws, the live-and-let-live ideal inherent to localism would be infinitely more profitable. Phoenix could have stricter smoking laws while Tempe boasted looser ones; Boston could have a sales or hotel tax while Springfield politely declined; Boise could try out a certain school curriculum and compare it to the diametrically opposed one in Meridian. But there are an awful lot of rules now, and this has effectively made local control a tool that is only truly useful in the hands of the authoritarian.

Why? Well, the reason that “lawmakers often complain that the federal government oversteps its boundaries in state matters” is that the rules that are set by the federal government ultimately afford lawmakers in the states only one option: to add to them. Which is to say that in our hyper-governed and overly centralized age, regulation works only one way. No state is able to tell Washington that it will be operating with a minimum wage that is lower than the federal one; many, however, may elect to pass higher thresholds. No state is permitted to opt out of federal regulations; every legislature, however, is free to make them stricter. And when it comes to guns, the story is no different at the state level: “municipalities’ rights” always means that the progressive town in Idaho gets to prevents its citizens from carrying firearms in the manner to which the state’s other citizens are accustomed and never means that the conservative town in Massachusetts gets to opt out of that state’s stricter rules.

Well, it depends upon a whole lot of things, including whether states have preemption laws that stop cities and townships from imposing regulations on gun carriers that would prevent them from carrying in, for example, city parks.  My state of North Carolina has just such a law.  If we didn’t my city of Charlotte (progressive as it is) would have imposed such a regulation.

My reaction to Charles’ commentary is several-fold.  First, note that I have commented that the best place for lawmaking is the state, because in order to prevent local hicks, ne’er-do-wells and criminals from acting out their Napoleon fantasies upon other men, association with the state means that … local municipalities and townships shouldn’t be able to preempt state laws.

Second, this still leave a lot of room for the state.  States can allow liberal rules for concealed carry, ensure shall-issue statutes are passed and enforced, pass open carry laws, court gun manufacturing businesses (witness South Carolina), and citizens can elect (and Governors can appoint) judges who are amenable to expunging of criminal records for crimes that would otherwise prevent ownership of firearms per form 4473.

Finally, Charles is correct on state preemption of federal laws inasmuch as states willingly comply with them.  Here I return to the issue of nullification, and point out what I have so many times before.  States have as much power over the expanding federal government as they want to have.  If they refuse to stop it, the federal leviathan will continue to grow.

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You are currently reading "Local Control Over Gun Laws", entry #12016 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published March 16th, 2014 by Herschel Smith.

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