With the growing likelihood of congressional deadlock for the next couple of years, gun control activists are going to be focusing a lot of their efforts on state-level gun laws, and one of their top priorities in the next legislative session in many states will be an attempt to empower local governments to pass gun control laws of their own.
We’ve already had a taste of this in Virginia, where Democrats who seized control of the statehouse in 2019 passed a law earlier this year that enables localities to ban firearms in government buildings, parks, and permitted events. Several cities around the state have already taken advantage of the opportunity to limit the right to carry as much as possible, and I suspect Democrats will try to further erode the state’s firearms preemption law in the next legislative session.
In Missouri, anti-gun activists are facing a much tougher job, given the fact that Republicans dominate the state legislature and control the governorship. Still, Democrats and gun control advocates are starting to stump for local control of gun laws, using the coronavirus as an excuse to berate Gov. Brad Parson for a supposedly inconsistent stance.
Responding to a question about the new spike in coronavirus cases, Parson stated on Nov. 12: “We’ve got to step up. We’ve got to do our part to protect one another,” presumably by wearing masks. But he rejected issuing a statewide mandate, noting that “the vast majority of people in the state are under a mask mandate” at the local level.
He added: “It’s up to the local levels to be able to do that. That’s why you have elections. The purest form of democracy is for them to be able to make those decisions. … Because if you start just letting one person dictate across the state of Missouri for one particular issue — today it’s maybe an issue you like, but it may not be someday.”
Although the coronavirus epidemic is the current hot topic, the state’s urban centers actually are confronting another out-of-control epidemic: gun violence. A three-day series in this week’s Post-Dispatch focused on the issue as it affects St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield. Local governments have tried to address the problem in multiple ways, including laws to restrict the unpermitted circulation of guns and high-capacity magazines. Kansas City tried to enact a “red flag” law to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and violent criminals.
But the state Legislature, with Parson’s backing, stepped in to deny local governments these rights and roll back their efforts.
That’s the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch comparing a mask mandate to gun and magazine bans, licensing regimes, and red flag laws, which is somewhat akin to comparing apples to bald eagles. The editors seem to forget that even with firearms preemption laws on the books, one person isn’t dictating gun laws across the state of Missouri, as would be the case if Parson were to try to impose a mask mandate all by his lonesome.
The reason why the state legislature in Missouri is the body that decides the gun laws for the entire state is simple. It avoids the possibility of a patchwork quilt of gun laws that may vary from town to town, which makes it difficult if not impossible to comply with every law on the books. While Democrats don’t have a majority in the legislature, they still have a seat at the table, and if their proposals didn’t run counter to the Second Amendment, they might find more support.
It’s true that St. Louis and Kansas City are seeing a sharp increase in violent crime this year, but so are many other cities across the country. Los Angeles just had its 300th homicide of the year, and the murder rate is the highest it’s been in ten years, even with California laws like a 10-day waiting period to purchase firearms; bans on “large capacity” magazines and “assault weapons”; laws that make it a crime to purchase ammunition without a background check, which makes online or out-of-state ammo purchases illegal.
In other words, gun control isn’t the crime-fighting tool that Democrats want it to be. What’s really needed are more police in high crime areas, better community relations and cooperation between officers and civilians in those high crime neighborhoods, increased federal prosecution of the most violent offenders, and programs designed to help gang members leave the life and establish themselves on the right side of the law.
The push for “local control” and an end to firearm preemption laws is nothing more than an attempt by anti-gun activists to try to gain ground wherever they can. In a Biden administration hamstrung by a gridlocked Congress, that’s likely to be through executive action and regulatory powers exercised by agencies like the ATF. In Republican-controlled states, gun control supporters will use Democrat-controlled cities as their launching pad for attacks on our right to keep and bear arms.
St. Louis, for example, has already passed a ban on guns in parks in clear violation of the state’s preemption law, but the city council members who approved the ban are hoping that a judge will rule in their favor and perhaps even declare the state preemption law to be unconstitutional (which is not likely, in my opinion). Even if a judge throws out their new law, the city gets free publicity and gun control activists can issue a press release bemoaning the awful “gun lobby” standing in the way of “commonsense gun safety reforms.” It’s a no-lose situation for the gun banners, at least as long as they can ignore the fact that while they’re wasting time passing ineffective and illegal gun control laws, they could be implementing strategies and tactics that have been proven to be effective at dramatically reducing violent crime.