October 2015
Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology;Fall2015, Vol. 104 Issue 4, p879
Academic Journal
In spite of years of journalistic and public attention and debate, the United States has instituted few changes in firearms policy over the past century. Opposition diluted a brief push by the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s and resulted in two minimalist federal statutes. A second effort in the wake of the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King produced the Gun Control Act of 1968, which largely remains the primary federal law. Even this modest control effort was subsequently diluted by the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. The Clinton administration managed to pass the Brady Act, requiring background checks on purchases from licensed firearms dealers, and a law directed at "assault weapons," which sunset after ten years. For the past two decades, policy activity has shifted to the state legislatures and the courts, where concealed carry laws have flourished and the Second Amendment has been recognized as an individual and fundamental right. Entrenched opposition in Congress and state legislatures, declining public support, well-organized institutional opposition, and constitutional constraints have limited policy options for the foreseeable future. Given these constraints, advocates should focus on limited, pragmatic goals that include reducing gun possession and carrying by high-risk individuals, restricting access to firearms by prohibited persons, and utilizing firearms laws to incapacitate violent, career offenders.


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