Gun law in the United States
Gun law in the United States is defined by a number of federal statutes. These laws regulate the manufacture, trade, possession, transfer, record keeping, transport, and destruction of firearms, ammunition, and firearms accessories. They are enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Major federal gun laws
- National Firearms Act (NFA) (1934) - Taxes the manufacture and transfer of, and mandates the registration of Title II weapons such as machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, heavy weapons, explosive ordnance, silencers, and disguised or improvised firearms.
- Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (1968) - Prohibited interstate trade in handguns, increased the minimum age to 21 for buying handguns.
- Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) (1968) - Focuses primarily on regulating interstate commerce in firearms by generally prohibiting interstate firearms transfers except among licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers.
- Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) (1986) - Revised and partially repealed the Gun Control Act of 1968. Prohibited the sale to civilians of automatic firearms manufactured after the date of the law's passage. Required ATF approval of transfers of automatic firearms.
- Undetectable Firearms Act (1988) - Effectively criminalizes, with a few exceptions, the manufacture, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, transfer, or receipt of firearms with less than 3.7 oz of metal content.
- Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990) - Prohibits unauthorized individuals from knowingly possessing a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.
- Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993) - Requires background checks on some firearm purchasers, depending on seller and venue.
- Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994–2004) - Banned semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices. The law expired in 2004.
- Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (2005) - Prevent firearms manufacturers and licensed dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products.
In addition to federal gun laws, all U.S. states and some local jurisdictions have imposed their own firearms laws.
- Companies that assemble and sell firearms.
- Companies that make firearm frames or receivers for sale to customers who will assemble them into firearms.
- Companies that make frames or receivers for another company that assembles and sells them as firearms.
- Companies that purchase frames and receivers from a manufacturer to assemble and sell as firearms.
- Companies that subcontract frames to a machining company that returns the frames to the original company (that assembles and sells the completed firearms).
- Companies subcontracted to machine frames for another company that assembles and sells the completed firearms.
- Gunsmiths who regularly buy military-type firearms and "sporterize" them for resale.
- Gunsmiths who buy semiautomatic pistols or revolvers, modify the slides to accept new sights that are not usually sold with these firearms and do not attach to the existing mounting openings, and offer these firearms for sale.
- Gunsmiths who buy government model pistols and install "drop-in" precision trigger parts or other "drop-in parts" for the purpose of resale.
- Gunsmiths who buy surplus military rifles, bend the bolts to accept a scope, drill the receivers for a scope base, and then offer these firearms for sale.
- Gunsmiths who buy surplus military rifles or pistols, remove the stocks, add new stocks or pistol grips, clean the firearms, send the firearms to a contractor for bluing, intend that these firearms are to be sold to the public.
In the United States the protection against infringement of the right to keep and bear arms is addressed in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. While there have been vigorous debates on the nature of this right, there was a lack of clear federal court rulings defining the right until two relatively recent United States Supreme Court cases.
An individual right to own a gun for personal use was affirmed in the landmark District of Columbia v. Heller decision in 2008, which overturned a handgun ban in the Federal District of Columbia. In the Heller decision, the court's majority opinion said that the Second Amendment protects "the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home." However, in delivering the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
The four dissenting justices said that the majority had broken established precedent on the Second Amendment, and took the position that the Amendment refers to an individual right, but in the context of militia service.
In the McDonald v. City of Chicago decision in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that, because of the incorporation of the Bill of Rights, the guarantee of an individual right to bear arms applies to state and local gun control laws and not just federal laws.
The Supreme Court has not ruled on whether or not the Second Amendment protects the right to carry guns in public for self defense. Federal appeals courts have issued conflicting rulings on this point. For example, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that it does, saying, "The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside." But the Tenth Circuit Court ruled in 2013 that it does not, saying, "In light of our nation's extensive practice of restricting citizen's freedom to carry firearms in a concealed manner, we hold that this activity does not fall within the scope of the Second Amendment's protections."
- As the status and responsibilities of the agency have changed over the years, it has used the acronyms ATF, BATF, BATFE and currently ATF.
- "Federal Gun Control Legislation - Timeline". Infoplease.com. Retrieved 2013-11-14.
- "Crime Control: The Federal Response". Policyalmanac.org. Retrieved 2013-11-14.
- "Firearms - Frequently Asked Questions - Manufacturers". ATF.gov. 2015. Archived from the original on July 10, 2014. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
- Greenhouse, Linda (June 27, 2008). "Justices Rule for Individual Gun Rights", The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- Scalia, Antonin (June 26, 2008). "District of Columbia et al. v. Heller, Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No. 07–290. Argued March 18, 2008". p. 2. Retrieved February 25, 2013.
- Cooper, Matthew (January 19, 2013). "Why Liberals Should Thank Justice Scalia for Gun Control: His ruling in a key Supreme Court case leans on original intent and will let Obama push his proposals.". National Journal (National Journal Group). Retrieved January 6, 2014.
- Linda Greenhouse (2008-06-27). "Justices Rule for Individual Gun Rights". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-27.
- See "District of Columbia v. Heller: The Individual Right to Bear Arms" (PDF) (comment), Harvard Law Review, Vol. 122, pp. 141-142 (2008): "Justice Stevens filed a dissenting opinion, agreeing with the majority that the Second Amendment confers an individual right, but disagreeing as to the scope of that right….Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer joined Justice Stevens’s opinion."
- Bhagwat, A. (2010). The Myth of Rights: The Purposes and Limits of Constitutional Rights. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 16–17. ISBN 9780195377781.
Justice Stevens begins his opinion by conceding Justice Scalia's point that the Second Amendment right is an 'individual' one, in the sense that '[s]urely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals.' He concludes, however, that all of the historical context, and all of the evidence surrounding the drafting of the Second Amendment, supports the view that the Second Amendment protects only a right to keep and bear arms in the context of militia service.
- Bennett, R.; Solum, L. (2011). Constitutional originalism : A Debate. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press. p. 29. ISBN 9780801447938.
In both dissents, the clear implication is that if the purpose of the Second Amendment is militia—related, it follows that the amendment does not create a legal rule that protects an individual right to possess and carry fire arms outside the context of service in a state militia.
- Schultz, D. A. (2009). Encyclopedia of the United States Constitution. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 201. ISBN 9781438126777.
Justice John Paul Stevens argued that the debate over the Second Amendment was not whether it protected an individual or collective right but, instead, over the scope of the right to bear arms.
- Liptak, Adam (June 28, 2010). "Justices Extend Firearm Rights in 5-to-4 Ruling", The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- Liptak, Adam (April 15, 2013). "Justices Refuse Case on Gun Law in New York", The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- Long, Ray; Sweeney, Annie; Garcia, Monique (December 11, 2012). "Concealed Carry: Court Strikes Down Illinois' Ban", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- Associated Press (February 23, 2013). "Court Finds No Right to Conceal a Firearm", The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2015.