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Gun Control Laws

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Gun control in the United States is quite controversial. The regulations are not the same in all parts of the country and different restrictions exist.

What Are Gun Control Laws?

Gun control laws are legal enforcement put in place by the government of a country or state to regulate the use and possession of various gun types. Gun control laws encompass a lot of restrictions and regulations, like the use of ammunition and other dangerous weapons. They also regulate the use of guns in certain locations, the age limit for gun possession, and how the gun should be carried.

Is It Regulated On A State Or Federal Level?

There are both federal and state gun control laws in the U.S. But the state-level laws vary widely, some states recognize the permits of other states and some don't. States aren't required to spend their resources enforcing federal gun laws, although some do.

Generally, states will have rules about gun registration and license waiting periods, rules on how many guns you can own, rules about where you can have guns, as well as how you can carry them.

Some states limit the number of guns you can buy. Some states require you to log a certain number of shooting hours or even take a test before you get a gun license. Some states ban weapons in certain public places.

There are states that make it really hard or impossible to carry a gun with you everywhere you go, called open carry, or to carry a gun around secretly, called concealed carry.

Most states are less restrictive than the federal government while others are much more restrictive.

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What Gun Control Laws Currently Exist?

The Second Amendment protects the right of American citizens to own firearms. This amendment is probably the most controversial amendment in the Bill of Rights and is subject to intense debate constantly around the country. Support for or opposition against the Second Amendment can almost be directly tied to a person's support for a political ideology or a political party.

The Second Amendment was added to the Constitution by James Madison who saw a strong state militia as a way to provide the citizens the power to defend themselves and protect their liberties when threatened by the abuse of power.

Having just defeated the British with state militias and an ill-equipped far less experienced army, the founders considered this amendment as a way to safeguard the means by which American citizens could fight a tyrannical federal government.

In more modern times arguments over the interpretation of the amendment fall on the sides of collective rights versus individual rights. In the wake of growing gun violence and mass shootings in America, this debate has come to the forefront.

Some Americans believe that the individual's right to own a gun is paramount and the violence we see in the society is simply a price that must be paid to maintain the freedom to bear arms. Others believe that the collective right to live in a society free of gun violence should take precedence over the individual’s right to own a weapon guaranteed by the Second Amendment. And more must be done to regulate weapons and prevent them from getting in the hands of dangerous individuals.

It is important to note that there is a compromise on both sides of the debate. There are those with extreme views and those who believe compromise is possible with a more moderate approach.

For example, the National Rifle Association has argued that the Second Amendment gives every citizen the right to own a gun and gun ownership should be absolute and free from any regulation whatsoever. Whereas some groups would like to ban all guns without exception. However, there's a large fraction of Americans who believe that common-sense gun control will successfully limit gun violence and also protect the right to bear arms.

Gun Control Act Of 1968?

The Gun control act of 1968 was passed as a result of many prominent figures' assassinations and spikes of racial riots that occurred in the preceding years. The law required that every firearm seller and manufacturer must possess a license before dealing.

The law also controlled the interstate movement of guns, ammunition, and similar weapons, and the agency in charge of this was the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division.

Minimum Age To Own A Gun?

The age is 21 for handguns and 18 for every other type of gun. However, states and cities might have their own minimum age requirements for gun possession and ownership.

Who's Restricted from Owning Guns?

Felons, drug addicts, and anyone legally decided mentally defective have all been barred from owning guns. The gun ban also widens to:

  • Illegal immigrants
  • Dishonorably discharged soldiers
  • People under restraining orders
  • People under indictment for a crime where the punishment exceeds 1 year
  • People convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence

Who May Sell Guns?

Only authorized gun dealers are allowed to sell guns. A dealer is someone who makes a business selling guns, not someone who sells them occasionally or on the side.

Every gun manufacturer, importer and dealer has to register every gun they import or sell, and ensure that the gun has a unique serial number. Whenever a gun is sold the dealer has to record the purchaser's name and the gun's serial number. They also have to include whether it was purchased for use by an agent of a state or local government.

The information collected when a gun is registered can't be used as evidence in a criminal case unless it was given falsely. So, is illegal to buy or sell an unregistered gun. Every time a gun is made, imported or sold you have to pay a tax, also all gun manufacturers, importers and dealers must also be licensed. The law specifically states the registration includes guns disguised as other objects.

To make sure people are following these rules, the ATF inspects licensed gun dealers every 12 months, as well as after any crimes involving that dealer's guns. Breaking the registration or licensing rules will mean your guns get seized and you could pay a hefty fine.

Do You Need a Background Check to Purchase a Gun?

A system of background checks was enacted in 1994. First, they were required to be done by law enforcement officers, and then when that was ruled unconstitutional. An instant online system was instituted, although many law enforcement officers still voluntarily do background checks.

The background check can take up to 3 days. Congress also offers grants for states to improve their electronic background check systems.

Do You Need A Permit To Purchase Guns?

Federal gun control laws do not require any permit to purchase a gun. However, some states enforce permits to purchase in various forms, while others only need you to complete a background check before purchasing firearms.

States that require a permit to purchase and the types of permit include:

  • California: Firearm Safety Certificate
  • Connecticut: Permit to Purchase
  • District of Columbia: Registration
  • Hawaii: Permit to Purchase
  • Illinois: License to Purchase or Possess
  • Massachusetts: License to Possess and Permit to Purchase
  • New Jersey: Permit to Purchase

Do States Require Permits To Carry Guns?

Permits to carry guns in the US vary from state to state. But in most states, you need permits to carry guns. States may also allow residents to possess firearms even without a permit. While this may not be the same for non-residents, two states with reciprocity can agree to allow their residents carry guns with either of their permits.

What Firearms Are Restricted?

Some kinds of guns are banned from being sold in the U.S. All machine guns are banned; this means any gun they can shoot more than once in a row without having to pull the trigger. Silencers are also banned though both can still be made for export.

There are no restrictions on antique firearms which mean anything made in 1898 or before. There is also the assault weapons ban that covers 18 types of semiautomatic guns. This means a gun that lets you shoot multiple times just by pulling the trigger again and has specific military features like

  • A telescoping stock
  • A pistol grip on rifles
  • A bayonet mount
  • A grenade launcher
  • A flash suppressor

The assault weapons ban also applies to any ammo clips that let you put more than 10 bullets in the gun at a time. One problem was that it didn't apply to anything made before 1994 so there were a lot of semiautomatic weapons still floating around for some years.

Another problem was that most types of guns are semi automatics. So the line between what was and what wasn't banned was hard to understand and rather blurry.

What States Have The Toughest Gun Control Laws?

States with the toughest gun control laws are regarded as “May Issue” states. They require gun owners to have a license or gun permit before possessing a gun. To obtain this permit, local authorities have the discretion of issuing or not after the gun owner meets certain criteria.

The states with this gun control law include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Rhode Island

What Cities Have The Toughest Gun Control Laws?

According to research, the cities with the toughest gun control laws in the US are:

  • Richmond, California
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • New Haven, Connecticut
  • Oakland, California
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
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