The Yale Law Journal. 123(1):82-146
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.