U.S. Gun Control Legislation

December 2013
Background Information Summaries;12/3/2013, p1
Firmly rooted in constitutional debates about citizens' rights, U.S. gun control legislation waxes and wanes between the imperative to protect constitutional rights and the government's responsibility to control and prevent gun-related crime. Over the years, federal laws aiming to control proliferation of firearms in the U.S. and to stem homicide rates inflicted by firearms have resulted in a number of prohibiting measures. The highlights include: The 1934 National Firearms Act, which sought to curb the gangster culture during prohibition by putting forth restrictions on automatic-fire weapons like machine guns. The 1938 Federal Firearms Act, which compelled merchants who shipped and sold firearms through interstate or foreign commerce channels to obtain federal licenses and prohibit sales to persons convicted of certain crimes. The 1968 Gun Control Act, inspired by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by a shooter who ordered the rifle through the mail. Legislation was further fueled by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. The law required stricter licensure of gun dealers, restriction of gun sales over state lines, and an expansion of the list of persons not allowed to purchase firearms to include individuals convicted of felonies, drug users, or the mentally incompetent. The 1986 Firearms Owners' Protection Act, which lifted restrictions on some gun sellers and imposed further penalties for using guns to commit certain crimes. The 1990 Crime Control Act, which instituted criminal penalties for possessing or discharging a firearm in a school zone. The 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which imposed a waiting period and a background check before a dealer can sell a handgun. The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which banned manufacture, importation, or possession of new assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for civilian use. The 2013 proposal by President Barack Obama to tighten gun control, introduce universal background checks for all gun sales, limit magazine capacity, and reinstate and strengthen the assault weapons ban, among other measures.


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