Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed a firearms pre-emption law last month, which will allow citizens to sue local governments whose gun regulations exceed state law. The NRA says it is “the strongest in the nation”.
While I certainly applaud putting limitations on gun control, preemption laws are not the right way to promote gun rights. Gun rights are important, but so is local democratic decision-making.
The idea of preemption is that federal laws are more important than state laws, and state laws are more important than local laws.
This puts serious limits on the power of local government. States often use it to force cities and towns to comply with state rules on things like zoning and special education funding.
The federal government uses preemption as well, usually in ways that hurt conservatives. In 2011, the Supreme Court cited preemption as a reason for striking down an immigration law that had been passed by voters in Arizona. Senate liberals have tried to use it to force states to ease access to abortion.
These types of decisions should be left up to local voters, not career politicians. Most conservatives would agree. Yet the NRA has been pushing preemption laws not only in Pennsylvania, but also throughout the country.
In its effort to protect the freedom to carry guns, the NRA has to be careful to preserve other freedoms as well.