Firearm Laws Enacted by Municipalities in 6 States With Diverse Policy Frameworks

Published:January 06, 2023DOI:


      Firearm violence is a public health crisis. Municipalities are frequently prevented from adopting firearm-related laws because of state preemption―when the state limits local authority to enact laws on a specific topic. Yet, it is unknown the extent to which municipalities enact firearm-related laws under varying preemption regimes, the content of such laws, and how municipal laws relate to the state's firearm-policy framework.


      A purposeful sample of 6 states with diverse preemption laws were chosen; 3 with robust preemption: South Carolina, Maryland, and Arizona; 1 with moderate preemption: Nebraska; and 2 without preemption: Connecticut and New York. Using Lexis+, municipal codes as of December 31, 2020 were identified, and the policy topics were evaluated and compared with the state's policy framework. Counties representing the municipalities identified were characterized using public use data.


      In total, 613 municipal policies were identified, covering 56 topics. The number of policy topics enacted by at least 1 municipality in the state included 18 for Arizona, 21 for Connecticut, 24 for Maryland, 25 for Nebraska, 40 for New York, and 28 for South Carolina. The most common policy identified was restricting public discharge in community-centered locations. Local laws in preemption states replicated state requirements or were consistent with savings clauses expressly allowing local action. New York City, a municipality in a state without preemption, enacted laws covering the most policy topics of the municipalities identified.


      When not constrained by state preemption, local lawmakers actively passed firearm-related legislation. Many such laws are specific to local contexts and may reflect local lawmakers’ responsiveness to constituent concerns.
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