Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2013

Keywords

Second Amendment, firearms, gun rights, state preemption laws, urban gun control, rural gun culture, localism, self-defense, District of Columbia v. Heller, Heller, gun control

Abstract

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.