Firearm Localism


Second Amendment doctrine is largely becoming a line-drawing exercise, as

courts try to determine which “Arms” are constitutionally protected, which “people” are

permitted to keep and bear them, and in which ways those arms and people can be regulated.

But the developing legal regime has yet to account for one potentially significant set of lines: the

city limits themselves. In rural areas, gun crime and gun control are relatively rare, and gun

culture is strong. In cities, by contrast, rates of violent gun crime are comparatively high, and

opportunities for recreational gun use are scarce. And from colonial Boston to nineteenthcentury Tombstone to contemporary New York City, guns have consistently been regulated

more heavily in cities—a degree of geographic variation that is hard to find with regard to any

other constitutional right. This Article argues that Second Amendment doctrine and state

preemption laws can and should incorporate these longstanding and sensible differences

between urban and rural gun use and regulation. Doing so would present new possibilities for

the stalled debate on gun control, protect rural gun culture while permitting cities to address

urban gun violence, and preserve the longstanding American tradition of firearm localism.

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