Comment: Why cities can no longer have their own gun laws

Comment: Why cities can no longer have their own gun laws

After Monday’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colo., Congress is once again considering federal measures to curb gun violence: President Biden has proposed a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines, among other steps. But revising state laws that prevent localities from regulating firearms should be no less a priority. That’s because, for all the heated rhetoric around the Second Amendment, state laws are a far more significant barrier to gun regulation than the Constitution. In Colorado and elsewhere, state laws keep cities and towns from passing measures that could prevent death and injury; and allow citizens to move through public spaces without fear. The Supreme Court has never held that the Second Amendment forbids densely populated urban areas from reasonably regulating weapons within their borders, a common practice since the nation’s founding. Even after the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller established an individual right to keep and bear arms for certain private purposes — a significant shift in gun-related jurisprudence — relatively few gun laws have been struck down by courts. Indeed, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion that Heller would not affect “longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,” bans on guns in government buildings, or “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” The court’s view of such matters could change, of course; the current lineup of justices seems poised to reshape Second Amendment doctrine in significant ways. But for […]

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