Since the 1980s, the National Rifle Association has successfully campaigned to preempt local laws that prevent gun violence: In that time, the number of states that block municipality gun laws has skyrocketed from seven to 45.
Charleston, West Virginia was one of the remaining holdouts until this spring. It was “an island of modest gun restrictions in a very pro-gun rights state,” according to ProPublica’s Lois Beckett, before a Republican delegate’s amendment for an unrelated bill overturned the city’s three-day wait period for gun purchases and its ban on concealed carry in public areas.
The NRA’s typical argument for preemption is that a “patchwork” of local laws confuses or inconveniences gun owners, an argument Delegate Patrick Lane used in favor of the amendment. When a House committee first approved the bill, the NRA applauded it on its website, arguing the repeal “would have no negative impact whatsoever on Charleston.”
Charleston’s Republican mayor Danny Jones disagrees entirely. He said allowing guns at public pools and parks would certainly have a negative impact. The truth is that data on the effect of local gun laws is sparse, in large part because the NRA has blocked funding for more research.
Though it is a rarer occurrence, the NRA has occasionally failed to take down city-level regulations, at least in part.
A recent example is the NRA’s recent push for preemption in Illinois, which largely failed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ordered that Illinois remake broad restrictions on guns outside the home before June 9. The NRA and its supporters tried to use this opportunity to trump local regulation on guns, pushing for a bill that would strike down “existing local regulations and reserv[e] the regulation of firearms and ammunition solely to the state legislature.”
The law that actually passed will curb local rules that ban concealed handguns in restaurants with alcohol, on transporting firearms, and prohibit future regulation of assault weapons, though it does not sweep as far as the NRA’s preferred bill. Also, unlike earlier NRA proposals, it does not overturn Chicago’s assault weapons ban.