Which governmental level is most appropriate now to address school shootings? Assault weapon restrictions, unacceptable in rural Louisiana, may be fine in New Orleans, or Parkland. Conversely, arming teachers may be popular in some cities but not others. There may not yet exist consensus for a uniform nationwide, or even statewide solution. Perhaps we disenfranchise ourselves. Circumventing gridlocked congressional and state legislators by advancing hometown regulations, “grassroots federalism” permits local solutions promulgated by the level of government closest to us. As diverse municipal laws bubble up to best practices over time, a broad consensus soon pressures the state and federal levels.
Time, place, and manner restrictions on fundamental Second Amendment rights are permissible under both federal and state constitutions. The First Amendment does not allow shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, nor does the Second Amendment permit firing a weapon in that same crowded theater. In constitutional law, fundamental rights cannot be impaired by any level of government without a compelling interest and a narrowly tailored, least restrictive resolution. To survive judicial review under the “strict scrutiny” standard, lawmakers must narrowly craft an ordinance or statute that restricts a fundamental right in a manner which precisely addresses a compelling problem. Activism within open source local political platforms becomes essential.
In Louisiana, the state constitution is even stronger on gun rights than the Second Amendment: "The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed. Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny."
The “federalist system” encompasses state, federal, and local government. In the 10th Amendment, reservation of rights to “the states, or to the people” has informed a devolution of federal power, once arrogated by the federal branches to themselves, back to the states. We can decentralize further.
In declaring independence, we cited the unalienable rights of sovereign citizens. Clearly, the Bill of Rights did not intend for us to surrender all those creator-endowed rights as the price for dual citizenship in the state and federal governments. The constitutional context of “the people” may be as granular as a small town or as grandiose as a quadrennial national electorate.
“Grassroots federalism” covers a vast majority of “the people." They reside in and around municipalities, both large and small. Local government officials, councils and mayors are empowered, to the extent permitted by the state’s constitution, to advance compelling local solutions to gun violence, with tightly crafted Second Amendment restrictions, enacted pursuant to the rights embedded in the Ninth and 10th Amendments, according to the plain meaning of the Ninth Amendment:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Justin Asher Zitler
New Orleans, LA.