I am confused by a basic feature of US constitutional law. Does the US constitution restrict state laws as well as federal ones? Specifically, can a state law (or even a city law) ban the possession of guns or, say, the sale of pornography?


1 Answer 1


No. The Fourteenth Amendment prevents this (it was originally implemented to enforce the 13th Amendment on the States, when the Confederate states returned to the Union after the Civil War.).

The idea here is that if the Constitution says it is a right of the People, all citizens of the Federal Nation must be afforded the right. Now, the Constitution does allow for regulation by states and lower levels of government. All Federal Level Gun regulation is based on the Interstate Commerce Clause for justification. The States may further regulate so long as that regulation does not ban the sale of fire arms (Though some states will try to make effective bans.).

SCOTUS case Heller v. D.C. effectively confirmed this by overturning a Washington D.C. law banning the use of Fire Arms for self-defense in private property.

  • Actually, the 14th Amendment does not prevent this nor does Heller confirm this. The 14th Amendment actually does bind the states to the provisions outlined in the Bill of Rights. Heller actually applied to DC, which is not a state and so did not address the question of whether the Second Amendment's protections are incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment against the states. Rather, McDonald v. Chicago addressed that and found that it did.
    – A.fm.
    Mar 8, 2018 at 3:07
  • Yes. However, D.C. being part of the U.S.'s territorial control, is subject to Federal Law which is bound by the Constitution. The Constitution has several provisions that can be summed up: If the Constition says the feds can do it, the feds can do it. If it does not say the feds can do, than the feds definately cannot do it BUT The states may (Amendments 9 and 10). If it explicitly says the Feds can't do something, then the states cannot do it either!
    – hszmv
    Feb 12, 2021 at 11:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .