- 1 Constitution
- 2 Preemption & Local Regulation
- 3 Registration
- 4 Restricted or Prohibited Items
- 5 Restricted or Prohibited Persons
- 6 Privileged Persons
- 7 Restricted or Prohibited Places
- 8 Manufacturing
- 9 Purchase, Sale, and Transfer
- 10 Transportation and Carry
- 11 References
Most States in the United States have a Constitutional provision that protects the right of the people to keep or bear arms. California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York contain no such provision in their Constitutions. The Supreme Court of the United States, in District of Columbia v. Heller, held that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense. In McDonald v. Chicago, it was held that the Second Amendment is fully applicable to the States.
The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides for the preemption of many State laws that conflict with Federal law or the Constitution. Examples of such laws are <to be inserted here some day>.
Preemption & Local Regulation
In addition to the preemption of State law by Federal law, most states have some level of preemption of local ordinances, including those regulating firearms. Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York do not have any form of legislative preemption. However, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York have some judicial preemption. Proponents of State-level preemption of firearm regulation argue that Home Rule has led to a patchwork of regulations that threatens the rights of honest Citizens. Proponents of Home Rule cite reasons such as increased citizen access to local government and wider representation.
On one hand, registration laws are enacted in an effort to reduce illegal firearm sales and transfers and assist law enforcement personnel in tracing firearms used in crimes. On the other, some argue that their true purpose is to facilitate an eventual confiscation in the near or distant future. In New York City, in 1991, residents who were previously licensed to possess semi-automatic rifles and shotguns were told by the City to surrender, render inoperable, or remove from the city all such firearms that were covered by a recent ban and that they were subject to search. California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont have laws which prohibit some or all firearm registries.
State laws regulating background checks or other purchase conditions are not preempted by Federal NICS check requirements. These State laws remain in full effect, alongside NICS. Additionally, Federal law stipulates that purchasers with State permits in compliance with BATF regulations and the Brady Law are precluded from the NICS check at the time of the transfer. Some States may serve as a point of contact (POC) between the NICS and the Federal Firearms License holder for all or some transfers. All States, except Vermont, have laws requiring or otherwise regulating background checks.
In an effort to link bullets and shell casings recovered at crime scenes to a specific firearm, some States require manufacturers to discharge their firearms before sale and include the spent shell casing with the firearm when it is sold. An image of the casing is added to a ballistics imaging database. California, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York are the only states with such laws. California uniquely requires new handguns to be microstamped with identifying markings, such as make, model, and serial number, that are recorded on each shell casing that is fired.
The District of Columbia and Hawaii require the registration of all firearms. California, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey require registration of handguns, certain "assault weapons," or .50 cal. rifles.
Laws requiring the registration of lost or stolen firearms are intended to help deter gun trafficking. Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island have laws requiring the registration of lost or stolen firearms. Reporting lost or stolen firearms is optional in California, Maryland, and Virginia in order to be exempted from the one-gun-a-month laws. Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Columbus, OH; Hartford, CN; Los Angeles, CA; New York City, NY; and San Francisco, CA include local jurisdictions with compulsory lost/stolen firearm regulations.
Laws mandating the timely or immediate reporting of lost or stolen firearms have been challenged on the basis that they violate the right to keep and bear arms, potentially turning the innocent victims of crimes into criminals themselves. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to hear the NRA's challenge in that they did not have legal standing to dispute the law because no one was actually charged with violating the law. A court decision will remain unknown until someone appeals an actual conviction.
Restricted or Prohibited Items
Though the definition varies by State, "Assault weapons" are usually characterized by features such as pistol grips, detachable magazines, and rapid-fire capabilities. They are, however, used for the same purposes as other firearms, such as self-defense, hunting, and target shooting. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York have enacted bans on "assault weapons." Maryland, Minnesota, and Virginia also have laws otherwise regulating some "assault weapons." For example, Virginia only prohibits shotguns known as "Striker 12's" and places restrictions on the carrying of large-capacity magazines in certain places.
Compared to other aspects of firearms, ammunition is largely unregulated. Serialized ammunition, micro-stamping, licensing, taxing, and banning "armor-piercing" or expanding ammunition are all types of ammunition regulations. The District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington regulate ammunition sales. The District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey also require a license to purchase or possess ammunition.
Generally, magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition are considered to be "large capacity." However, each State's definition does vary. Most States with "assault weapon" bans, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, also ban either or all of manufacture, transfer, transportation, or possession of "large capacity" magazines.
Accessories include silencers, grips, scopes, sights (laser), and more. Some of these are prohibited by State and local laws.
Restricted or Prohibited Persons
Age restrictions on firearms possession and purchase vary greatly from State to State. Types of age restriction laws range from minimum age to purchase, child access prevention to adult criminal liability for children. The definition of a minor or child varies from State to state ranging from under 14 to under 21. Even within a State, the age restrictions may vary depending on the circumstances and type of firearm, such as handguns. Wyoming is the only state that does not restrict child access to firearms.
Citizenship & Naturalization
The United States prohibits firearm possession by anyone who is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States or an alien admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa. Some states further restrict firearm ownership or possession by non-Citizens with respect to the type of firearm and the conditions under which they may possess it.
Restricted or Prohibited Places
Common prohibited places are schools, prisons, courthouses, government buildings, and restaurants and bars. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia place restrictions on the locations where firearms may be carried.
Purchase, Sale, and Transfer
Transportation and Carry
- Volokh, Eugene. State Constitutional Rights to Keep and Bear Arms. Retrieved July 7, 2011
- District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)
- McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 130 (2010)
- TheFreeDictionary.com Legal Dictionary - Supremacy Clause
- NRA-ILA. Firearms Preemption Laws. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
- LCAV. State Preemption/Local Authority to Regulate Firearms. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
- The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development, A Primer on Home Rule, August 2009, p. 6
- LCAV. Registration of Firearms. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws (2008). Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- NRA-ILA. Licensing and Registration. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- NRA-ILA. Guide To The National Instant Check System.
- LCAV. Background Checks. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State, and Selected Local Gun Laws (2008). Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- LCAV. Ballistic Identification. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws (2008). Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- LCAV. Reporting Lost or Stolen Firearms. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws (2008). Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- NRA-ILA. Pennsylvania: Baldwin Borough to Draft Lost or Stolen Legislation (05APR 2010). Retrieved on July 10, 2011.
- Jill King Greenwood and Chris Togneri. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Thursday, June 16, 2011. Retrieved on July 10, 2011.
- LCAV. Assault Weapons. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws (2008). Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- NRA-ILA. Semi-Automatic Firearms and the "Assault Weapon" Issue. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- LCAV. Ammunition Regulation. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws (2008). Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- NRA-ILA. Ammunition Summary. Retrieved on July 8, 2011.
- LCAV. Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- LCAV. Child Access Prevention. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
- LCAV. Prohibited Purchasers. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
- BATFE, Firearms, FAQ, Unlicensed Persons, Q. 5
- LCAV. Carrying Concealed Weapons. In Regulating Guns in America: An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State, and Selected Local Gun Laws (2008). Retrieved July 10, 2011.