State and Local Gun Laws after D.C. v. Heller: Research Resources


The Supreme Court's recent decision in D.C. v. Heller established an individual right to bare arms, but it has left several questions about the scope of this newly discovered right open--with only a total ban on handguns clearly prohibited. Not surprisingly, cities like New York and Chicago are combing the case to see whether their own laws are vunerable, and at least one locality, San Francisco, has been already been sued. It's pretty clear that this will be happening all over the country, so it is appropriate to point out that there is a free, though ocassionally dated, resources that collects the gun laws and ordinances of all states and local governments in the U.S.

The Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (a group that knows something about gun laws), publishes an annual (at least in theory) publication entitled the State Laws and Published Ordinances - Firearms (quaintly known to federal lawmen as ATF P 5300.5) The ATF has the (latest) 26th Edition (2005) on its website here. There seems to be some evidence that the new edition is coming soon, but it is not yet available in either print or an online format.

Another valuable resource is the Seattle Public Library's website, which has long maintained a very useful page that collects links to some local codes, to the handful of municipal code publishers, and to other pages that link to online codes of ordinances. Starting here you can find hundreds of city and county gun laws.

It will be a while before the implications of Heller have played themselves out across the pages of America's city ordinance books. But until then, these resources document the pre-Heller state of U.S. gun control.


Photo: Chicago Sun-Times photo of Mayor Richard Daley defending city's handgun laws.