Colorado Bill Highlights Importance of Preemption Laws

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posted on May 21, 2021
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Kimberly Vardeman courtesy Flickr

A measure recently approved by a Colorado Senate committee would repeal Colorado’s firearm preemption law—a dangerous action that would undo the years of hard work the NRA Institute for Legislation Action (ILA) has expended shepherding such laws to implementation.

The measure is S.B. 256, which would repeal the law in Colorado that prevents localities from passing their own gun-control measures, similar to the preemption laws on the books in most states.

“The bill declares that the regulation of firearms is a matter of state and local concern,” reads the bill summary at the beginning of the legislation. “Existing law prohibits a local government from enacting an ordinance, regulation, or other law that prohibits the sale, purchase, or possession of a firearm. The bill permits a local government to enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law governing or prohibiting the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of a firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory that is not less restrictive than state laws governing the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of the firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory.”

The summary further explains, “Existing law prohibits a local government from enacting an ordinance or resolution that conflicts with state law regarding concealed carry of handguns. The bill permits a local government, including a special district, and governing board of an institution of higher education to enact an ordinance, resolution, rule, or other regulation that prohibits a permittee from carrying a concealed handgun in a building or specific area within the local government’s or governing board’s jurisdiction.”

Preemption laws are not only written to protect gun owners from bad, unconstitutional local statutes, but also to protect them from the mass confusion of laws changing from town to town and city to city.

“This law has ensured that all law-abiding Coloradoans have the same rights regardless of where they reside,” recently said NRA-ILA, “and has also ensured that adults licensed to carry a handgun for self-defense are not prevented from doing so just because they seek a higher education. Without it, there will be a confusing patchwork of laws that are difficult to know and obey, and an expansion of arbitrary boundaries where law-abiding citizens are left defenseless.”

State firearms preemption laws are so critical that seeing such laws implemented throughout the country was one of NRA-ILA’s priorities for years. Subsequent passage of those laws was one of the organization’s crowning achievements that has protected Americans’ Second Amendment rights in ways most will never even realize.

Consider what could happen if the Colorado law were to be approved by the legislature and signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D). A person who could legally possess a certain handgun or magazine in Denver might not be able to legally possess that same gun or magazine in Boulder. At the same time, concealed carry might be perfectly legal at a city park in Colorado Springs, but be a serious felony violation at a nearly identical municipal park in Aspen. In the meantime, gun owners would have no idea what the local statute was as they traveled from place to place. The result—and the stealth goal of anti-gunners in the Centennial State—is lawful gun owners not practicing their rights for fear of getting into trouble due to the confusing patchwork of laws and statutes.

In fact, you can see how important such laws are to the well-being of lawful gun owners just by looking at those who are working so hard to repeal them—for instance, Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety: “As the result of a concerted lobbying campaign by the National Rifle Association, more than 40 states have passed broad firearm preemption laws that specifically prohibit local governments from adopting reasonable gun laws tailored to the local conditions,” the group says on its website. “These laws prevent local mayors and police chiefs—the officials most familiar with local criminal activity and how to address it—from passing common-sense public safety measures designed to keep their communities safe.”

In the end, if every city, town, village, or county in Colorado—or any other state, for that matter—could restrict or inhibit law-abiding gun owners’ ability to carry a firearm for defense of themselves and their families, then carrying a firearm would no longer be a right at all. That’s why repealing any state firearm preemption law is a bad thing—and why gun owners must fight such efforts at every turn.

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