FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

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About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More

Local Ordinances

I. Introduction

A key inquiry in each state, as addressed on a state-by-state basis in each state chapter, is whether there is state-based preemption. A common area for questions and confusion involves the ability of local units of government to regulate firearms and ammunition. Where it exists, an ordinance violation is generally a civil matter and subject to fine.

The NRA has taken on this fight as it relates to some of the over-reaching local firearms regulations and has prevailed with state preemption campaigns in a number of states. If there is state-based preemption, this means the state has specifically set forth in state law what areas local governments may regulate regarding firearms.  This minimizes searching through these hard-to-find ordinances.

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II. State Versus Local Unit Authority

A. Traditional Approach

Under the traditional approach taken by state legislative bodies, local governments only possess the powers expressly given to it by the Legislature. For this reason, and generally speaking, unless a state statute gave a unit of local government specific authorization to regulate certain affairs, it cannot. A centralized government is usually preferred.

B. Home Rule

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The notion of home rule, local governments regulating their own affairs, runs through Western history. Some states have thus adopted the Home Rule Acts. The purpose or policy of Home Rule is to transfer to local governmental units all powers necessary or desirable in conducting their local affairs. In order to exercise its powers, and direct lawful acts and omissions, local government passes ordinances.

If Home Rule is the law, many political units have firearms ordinances. Be aware!

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III. Scope of Preemption

In most states where there is state-based preemption, the state government may still afford some authority to local government to regulate firearms. These allowances of power generally fall into one of a few categories:

  • Discharge
  • Zoning
  • Property that local government owns or rents
  • Distance of sales of firearms near schools

Thus, where there are exceptions in state-based preemption statutes, they must be understood and any ordinances on point determined and followed. In the few states where there is no state-based preemption, the ordinances may vary (and do) from one side of the street to the next. These states, assuming reciprocity exists, present unique challenges for licensees in locating and following local ordinances.

A comprehensive list of local ordinances is maintained by ATFE [http://gunla.ws/atf] but is subject to two significant limitations. First, the local government must have published its ordinance in the Federal Register [http://gunla.ws/fr] to get picked up and placed on the list. Second, the list is always a year or more behind; and, therefore, it may not include the most current changes.

In addition, a few private databases [http://gunla.ws/mcode] are searchable and contain local ordinances. Local ordinances are problematic for reciprocal carry.

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IV. Conclusion

Local ordinances are an area where there is potential conflict with rights withheld by the Legislature. In addition, local ordinances are difficult to access in an efficient manner.  However, violation is civil in nature, not criminal. It is necessary to determine if there is state-level preemption. If so, the only areas that need to be researched, if any, are the exceptions for local government.

Where there is no state-level preemption, a serious risk-benefit analysis should be taken by a person anticipating reciprocal carry. In a narrow scope, it may be able to be researched with relative ease. Without this, the matter will be a time-consuming process.

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FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More