Although there are only a few federal firearms laws they are often misunderstood, ignored, or confused for one another. We will take a look at the existing US firearms law at the federal levels
What Are The Federal Firearm Laws?
The US firearms law can be divided into federal or national level laws that apply to the entire country. State laws that are independent of each other will differ from state to state and local laws that are more diverse apply to local conditions and specific situations.
National level firearms law provides definitions, registration, and tax on certain types of firearms licensing in the form of the Federal Firearms License or FFL. These laws in effect regulate firearms manufacturing, importation commerce between States, shipping, sales, and even gunsmithing.
There are quite a lot of federal firearm laws, however, there are some basic ones. Knowing the basic National Firearms laws in the United States is not too difficult. The first and most fundamental is the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution which was ratified in 1791. Then we didn’t see another piece of federal firearms legislation until 143 years later with the National Firearms Act of 1934.
The 1934 legislation was a reaction to the media attention given to the gangsters brought to power during federal prohibition on alcohol.
Other federal gun laws you should know are:
- The 1968 Gun Control Act
Years later, in reaction to increases in crime rates, the presidential assassination among others, the 1968 Gun Control Act was created as the US’s second major federal firearms legislation.
Since then, the additional firearms laws since 1968 have either modified that of 1934 NFA, the 1968 GCA, or limited the importation of firearms.
The most recent federal-level firearms laws lasted only a set period of time and have expired.
- Undetectable Act of 1988
The undetectable firearm act of 1988 illegalizes the importation, sales, manufacturing, possession, and transfer of firearms that are undetectable by metal sensors or manufactured with parts that make them impossible to generate x-ray images.
The law was created in reaction to the fear of the new polymer pistols that were literally just being experimented with. These laws were not against firearms that existed but against science fiction firearms that might exist, or potentially could exist based on the irrational fears of the representatives at the time. After 10 years, in November of 1998, the law became redundant, and not renewed shows because it lacked effectiveness.
From 1988 to 1998 nothing happened because this was legislation against the science fiction act. Another five years passed until 2003 where it was reenacted for another ten years and in 2013 the proposition to renew it was unsuccessful.
- Second Amendment
The Second Amendment is a basic right written as a part of the first 10 amendments also known as the Bill of Rights in 1791. The face of the pro-Second Amendment movement is the NRA or the National Rifle Association. The NRA was initially created for firearm and hunting safety but has now become a Second Amendment political powerhouse. They preached the message that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. However, this does not mean that guns are not a part of the problem, although it is possible to commit murder without a gun, the gun is a tool that makes it much easier and effective.
The other point of view with the second amendment is that guns cause violence and need to be further restricted. Statistically, states that have more guns legally have a higher rate of gun deaths. Another piece of information that illustrates this concept is the stopped handgun violence campaign introduced in Massachusetts in 1984. At that time the gun death rate in Massachusetts was about 7.5 per hundred thousand people. Through a series of targeted gun control bills that number dropped by 60% over the last two decades.
Many Second Amendment supporters believe that violent gun crimes are committed using illegal firearms. But studies have shown that 71% of mass shootings since the year 2000 have been perpetrated with legally purchased weapons.
- Violence Protection Act
This is the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act which was passed in 1993. It was passed to reduce gun violence in the wake of the failed assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan. The purpose was to create a mandatory background check on firearm purchases throughout the United States.
The law imposes a five-day waiting period on the purchase of a handgun, amend the Gun Control Act, and create the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, commonly referred to as NICs.
In 1998, when the NICs system was completed, the mandatory five-day waiting period on purchasing a handgun was lifted. According to researchers, this law had zero impact on reducing homicide rates.
In places where background checks are required it is still relatively easy to purchase a gun. Without passing the test in most states, you can be given a gun by a family member or a friend. You can also sell on websites or at a gun show without a background check.
Another piece of common ground is the concept of straw purchasing which means that someone purchases a firearm legally and resells it illegally. In the United States, it is technically illegal but very easy to bypass and is becoming a major problem.
How Many State & Federal Laws Are There?
We already have over 300 thousand laws in the United States that deal specifically with firearms.
State-level of firearms laws create further definitions of firearms. They regulate concealed carry occasionally. State firearms law will impose additional restrictions on firearms and commerce within the state. Such as permits required to purchase, own, use, or collect firearms. The states also determine reciprocity between themselves. For concealed carry permit holders states, often determine recreational shooting and hunting locations.
Firearms law may also be imposed at the local level like counties, cities, parks, and businesses. Even homeowner’s associations may all have the ability to restrict firearm use. Depending on the state, local laws may apply additional CCW restrictions. They may also regulate businesses and often manage shooting locations.
When determining the success or failure of various gun control strategies, knowing the laws is the responsibility of anyone living under them. It is especially important to know and understand how effective existing laws might be when there’s a national hysteria.
Do Federal Gun Laws Supersede State Laws?
Federal firearms laws apply to everyone in every state. State laws also exist and have been created to apply to the situations in each state’s jurisdiction. The US system of government allows for change to laws as needed or demanded by the people that they serve.
Keeping this in mind, the fact that there are crimes committed even with the current firearms laws proves that laws alone cannot solve violence.
However, raw data from the FBI’s website plainly shows overall crime rates in the US have dropped steadily over the last decade. An estimated 30 million people in the United States owned firearms today and people agree that that number is declining. In other words, fewer people each year pick up firearms as a hobby or a sport.
Currently, FBI crime statistics tell us that just over 10,000 crimes involving firearms are committed each year, although that number is also dropping over the years. So, those still on the fence about firearms can take a closer look at the firearms laws in the United States today and assess how well they have worked and what additional laws might mean.
Generally speaking, when it comes to self-defense and most uses of firearms, then you are talking about state law. There are requirements that the state law has to comply with the United States Constitution, as well as the state constitution, in how it defines the law and how people are treated. But beyond that, state gun laws supersede federal laws in a state.
However, if you happen to be using your gun to defend yourself in a situation that the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over, then federal gun laws will supersede.
For example, a federal security officer who works for homeland security is on federal property, like the federal building or the federal courthouse. If such a person uses a gun illegally, they would be prosecuted in federal court for the appropriate offense.
So, there are areas where state laws are overridden to some degree by federal law but that is generally in the realm of when and who may possess a firearm.
Is Open Carry Federally Legal?
There are no federal gun laws that restrict the open carrying of guns. However, those in charge of a federal building or property can prohibit the possession of firearms within their premises.
For state laws, there are many states that will not allow you to open carry firearms without a permit. Some will also ban the open carry of firearms in certain locations regardless of if you have a permit or not.