Exclusive in USA TODAY: Op-ed in partnership with Local Solutions Support Center

#DefendLocal worked together with the Local Solutions Support Center, a New York-based hub for nonpartisan preemption education strategies, to place an op-ed in USA TODAY, signed by the mayors of eleven major American cities.

The opinion piece calls for an end to firearm preemption laws, pushed by state lawmakers and the gun lobby, that block common-sense local gun reform.


Mayors want to pass gun safety laws, but the NRA and our state legislatures won’t let us

Andrew Gillum, Bill Peduto and Ted Wheeler

Published 7:52 a.m. ET March 23, 2021

Mayors are ready to pass gun control laws, but we can’t do it unless the NRA and state legislatures get out of our way. We need to end gun preemption.

Shots are fired at a school. A gunman threatens and takes the lives of the young people who represent our future, and adults charged with preparing them for that future.

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare — and every mayor’s, too.

Keeping our people safe is our highest responsibility. If our residents don’t feel safe — safe at school, safe in parks, safe at work, safe at home — nothing else matters.

As mayors, we’re elected to take on big challenges. Infrastructure and public works, water quality and energy efficiency, law enforcement and civil rights, and making our cities competitive in the 21st century economy.

Atop that list should be smart, common-sense local firearms laws that keep guns out of the wrong hands, keep guns out of public spaces, and keep the threat of gun violence and mass shootings at bay.

There’s no doubt about the need for thoughtful new gun ordinances. Mayors across the country are ready to pass them, enhancing public safety in our cities.

But we can’t — because our states have banned us from enacting local gun laws.

Forty-three states have some form of gun preemption, a tactic increasingly used by state legislators to prevent cities and counties from making local laws and decisions. States are interfering in local efforts to raise wages, pass paid sick time and non-discrimination ordinances, and adopt fracking and environmental regulations. Lawmakers are using preemption to overturn elections, perpetuate racial and economic inequality, and silence local voices.

It’s happening in your state. And it’s happening because lobbyists and special interests know it’s easier to influence a few state lawmakers in 50 state capitols than thousands of local mayors and city councils.

Nearly everywhere gun violence can happen, local leaders are blocked from taking action to help prevent it, And as recently highlighted by the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, the consequences of defying the state can be grave.

In Pennsylvania, local governments can’t pass gun laws more restrictive than the state’s. In Tennessee, the gun lobby and special interest groups can sue local officials for passing gun ordinances. In Florida, should councilmembers dare pass local gun laws, they can be fined and removed from office by the governor. And in Kentucky, your mayor can be jailed for up to a year — just for voting for a local firearm regulation.

That’s the power of America’s gun lobby. In a new national poll released this month by the Local Solutions Support Center, 70% of voters said corporate special interests and their lobbyists convince state lawmakers to block local laws to protect their profits.

Let us be clear: Our states are choosing the National Rifle Association over your lives and safety. And right now, we’re powerless to stop them.

But in the wake of last month’s tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., a new movement has arisen, fueled by an awakened collective conscience that we can — we must — do better on gun violence. The voice of that movement is the voice of America’s young people, demanding that their elected officials do their jobs and keep them safe.

Your local mayors are ready. We can pass thoughtful local firearm restrictions that reduce the threat of gun violence while respecting Constitutional rights. We can do what needs to be done on guns, if our state legislatures get out of the way. We can do this, if people contact their state lawmakers and demand an end to firearm preemption laws.

We owe it to those who have lost their lives to gun violence, and to those whose lives we can save yet from tragedy

Andrew Gillum is the mayor of Tallahassee, Fla. Bill Peduto is the mayor of Pittsburgh, Penn. Ted Wheeler is the mayor of Portland, Ore. They are joined in these sentiments by the following other mayors: Jacob Frey of Minneapolis; Michelle De La Isla of Topeka, Kan.; Buddy Dyer of Orlando, Fla.; Sly James of Kansas City, Mo.; Christopher Taylor of Ann Arbor, Mich.; Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio;  Lyda Krewson of St. Louis, Mo.; and Jorge Elorza of Providence, R.I.