Why Overturning Preemption Isn't About Local Control

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Preemption is a law that most states have that makes it illegal for municipalities to create their own gun control laws. The idea here is to make it a universal standard that everyone can understand. They don’t have to worry about getting arrested for carrying a firearm because they stopped to get gas on the wrong side of the city limits sign, for example.

However, there’s been a push to remove it. Colorado did, but as one opinion writer notes, the arguments used are specious at best.

With the passage of Senate Bill 21-256, Colorado has become the first state to reverse course after having such a law in place. Colorado abandoned preemption and replaced it with a law whereby “a local government is permitted to enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law governing or prohibiting the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of a firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory.”

Crucially, “the ordinance, regulation, or law may not be less restrictive than state law.” Localities can make their own choices — but only if those choices are in the direction of more gun control.

The dial only turns one way. But gun control advocates have worked hard to obscure this fact. Advocates of the repeal framed the new law as one focused on enabling “local control” — a point that would be hard to argue with if it were actually true.

As a basis for S.B. 21-256, Colorado’s General Assembly found that “officials of local governments are uniquely equipped to make determinations as to regulations necessary in their local jurisdictions.” Framing the issue as one of “local control” even seems to imply that gun rights advocates, who often lean conservative or libertarian in their politics, should support repealing preemption according to their own principles of favoring local autonomy over central control. But this is demonstrably wrong. And no one should be cowed by such an argument.

To be clear, we are not talking about the ability of cities and towns to establish less restrictive gun laws. The repeal of preemption only allows local areas to set more restrictive laws than the state. “Local control” is a complete misnomer when the “control,” like a ratchet, can only go in one direction: toward a tightening of the rules. That is not local autonomy but rather a centralized effort to promote greater restriction on individuals’ right to keep and bear arms.

Precisely.

It’s not local control at all. It’s simply enabling still more restrictions at the local level. There’s no opportunity for a community that feels the need to have more permissive gun laws to do so without going through the legislature. They can restrict whatever they want however they want, but they can’t really establish their own gun laws.

Of course, that’s because the people who pushed for this and who claimed it was about local control don’t really care about any of that. What they want is more restriction on the right to keep and bear arms and they’ll use pretty much any argument they can come up with to do so. The whole “local control” thing is really just window dressing they used to try and sound more reasonable.

However, those of us who looked beyond the pretty words clearly saw the issue.

Not that it really matters. Colorado has guzzled the gun control Kool-Aid something fierce in recent years. The problem, though, is that not all of Colorado is on board with the whole “let’s ignore the Second Amendment” thing going on in the state.

For them, real local control would be a serious boon. They could loosen restrictions and show that the private, lawful ownership of firearms doesn’t represent a threat to anyone.

Figure the odds of that happening, though?

It’s a shame, too, because it would be downright illuminating to see how more guns really doesn’t result in more crime.