Preemption is one of those gun rights laws that are especially controversial, but probably shouldn’t be. I mean, it’s not saying you can’t have local gun control, it’s just saying that it has to be passed by the state legislature.
Of course, most of the states that pass preemption also aren’t interested in passing local gun control because they know it simply doesn’t work, but still…
One place you don’t expect to find such measures introduced, though, is New England. The South? Sure. The West? Very possible, as long you’re not talking about the West Coast. But not so much for New England.
Then again, people forget that New England is also the home of New Hampshire, and that’s where we’ve got a preemption bill.
A bill moving to the Senate floor in early January would explicitly bar towns and cities from enacting firearms regulations on municipal-owned property, and would allow residents to sue the town to force officials to remove the ordinances. Residents who sue could get $10,000 in court settlements. Town officials who lose a lawsuit could be forcibly removed by the governor.
The bill, House Bill 307, has pitted firearms rights groups – from the National Rifle Association to Gun Owners of America – against town officials and gun safety advocates. And it has reignited debates over how far “local control” should extend in the state.
HB 307 calls for “uniform firearms laws in the state” by requiring towns to immediately remove any local ordinances or regulations on firearms. But the mechanism to do so is unusual.
Under the bill, if a person believes a town has passed a firearm regulation in violation, that person may write a letter to the town saying so. Once receiving the letter, the town would have 90 days to remove the regulation using its local legislative process, without a chance to object.
If after 90 days, the town has not removed the regulation, the person is allowed to take the matter to Superior Court, where the bill will give the person automatic standing. The court could issue a fine to the town ranging from $500 to $5,000, depending on whether the violation was “inadvertent” or was committed “purposefully,” “knowingly,” “recklessly,” or “as the result of gross negligence.”
If the person suing the town is a resident, the court shall award them $10,000 in liquidated damages, in addition to their attorney’s fees.
That’s kind of interesting. It provides a financial incentive to follow the process, basically creating a bounty on local gun control ordinances.
I like it.
Now, does this have a hope in hell of passing?
If it were any other New England state, I’d say no. The idea of Massachusetts or Connecticut passing a preemption bill is about as alien as Texas becoming an immigration sanctuary state. It’s just not going to happen.
But New Hampshire has always been a little different. They have “Live Free or Die” on their license plates and much of their state politics have reflected that over the years. Less so these days since they started experiencing a large influx of Massholes, but they still lean toward favoring individual rights.
As such, I can actually see a preemption bill gaining some traction and actually passing there, at least more so than other states in the region. However, preemption also tends to make some on the right uncomfortable since they favor local control. They see preemption as an attempt at top-down governing and aren’t crazy about it.
However, rights are rights. It doesn’t matter who is interfering with our constitutionally protected rights, they all are equally wrong. A law that protects those rights isn’t top-down governing, it’s simply protecting the rights of individuals.
Preemption needs to happen. Here’s hoping that it does.