How Would Gun Laws Change If Local Governments Took Charge?

Local Policymakers’ Attitudes Toward Gun Laws Across the U.S.

Emily Katz and Nathan Lee

This report is part of our Partner Reports collection

This CivicPulse report investigates the possibility of gun control on a local level, analyzing local policymakers responses to questions about gun ownership. 

The issue of gun violence in America seems intractable, with high levels of political polarization impeding any resolution. The toxicity of the debate at the national level has led some experts and policymakers to suggest that the best forum for the gun debate would actually be the local level, where localities could tailor gun restrictions to suit their specific needs. To investigate this question further, CivicPulse conducted a national survey of local policymakers to better understand what kinds of policy proposals these officials are more or less likely to support. At the moment, the existence of preemption laws in 45 states makes the enacting of gun legislation at the local level impossible. In the absence of these preemption laws, and if gun regulation was decentralized, how would gun legislation change overall? We found that, while party polarization seems to be as pronounced at the local level as it is in higher levels of government, some key policies like waiting periods and red flag laws have a high degree of bipartisan support. Additionally, we also find that policymakers in more urban areas tend to support stricter gun laws than those in more rural areas.

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