Gun Law in America
Gun Control is something that has been discussed for many years throughout the United States. After numerous mass shootings, leaving multiple wounded and dead, there has many controversial debates and protests. The complexity of gun control and the long history of gun control is what made this topic such an issue. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm to use for lawful purposes including self-defense in the home. In today’s gun control rights, America supports the Second Amendment with some modifications, eliminations and replacements yet people with a gun license, over the age of 21 are still able to purchase a gun. Gun control was initially created for the government to regulate the purchasing and usage of guns and firearms in the U.S. The different Presidents and politicians, as well as the National Rifle Association has made it difficult to agree on the laws of gun control.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 is a federal law that was made to regulate the use of firearms and make gun dealers not able to sell to prohibited persons. This law was one of the biggest steps into changing gun control laws for the better. This bill was introduced to the House of Representatives and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In 1791, the bill of rights was created and included in this was the second amendment; the right to bear arms. This reads A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. (Ginsberg, 109) A debate then began about whether or not this amendment was necessary. Some people argued that the right to bear arms should only be for certain organized groups such as for the military or the national guards. But then others believed that all citizens should all be able to protect themselves which could mean owning a gun. Then in 1934, President Roosevelt took action in order to prevent shootings from continuing to happen. The National Firearms Act was the first gun-control law in the United States. All gun sales had to be recorded plus a $200 tax to the manufacture or sale of machine guns. (Gray) This was the original NFA which is similar to the current NFA but slightly different back then. The law also made every gun registration go through the Secretary of the Treasury. Franklin Roosevelt’s goal in passing this was to stop the gangland crimes during this time. With the National Rifle Association continuously arguing over this law, it had to be revised and modified multiple different times.
In 1938, the Federal Firearms Act was passed. This made it so gun dealers had to have a federal firearms license. Gun manufacturers, dealers, and importers all had to keep track of the guns they were selling and they all had to have a license in order to do so. Gun dealers were also not able to sell to certain people such as convicted felons or someone with a disability. This class of people become referred to as prohibited persons. By 1968, there had been so many assassinations involving presidents, political activists, etc. that President Lyndon B. Johnson was really pushing for the Gun Control Act of 1968 to pass. This was going to replace the Federal Firearms Act. All of these people had been killed and then there is the assassinators. Lee Harvey Oswald had bought is assault rifle through mail and did not even use his name to purchase it, he used an alias. Other assassinators had bought the guns illegally, or else stole them in order to kill these political activists and presidents. (Vizzard) This was absurd that so many people had been shot since there was not enough restrictions on purchasing a firearm. It was not until now that the destructive devices had been talked about being banned; such as bombs, grenades, etc. They were started to reconsider what qualified as a machine gun. This bill required you to need a reasonable purpose for purchasing the gun, such as for a sporting purpose like hunting animals. The law also put an age restriction on purchasing a gun. You now had to be 21 years old, and a convicted felon or someone who was mentally ill prohibited persons were still not able to purchase a gun. Lastly, federal law needed to be able to track every person who owned a gun. So every individual gun had an individual serial number with it so they could be tracked if something were to happen with that gun, and of course if someone were to use it illegally and shot somebody then they could track whoever was the owner of the gun. A downside to this though was that if you already owned a gun, you did not have to get it registered to have a serial number. Multiple guns had already been bought by this time, which still made this a disadvantage but would hopefully help with future gun purchases. Another unfortunate downside to this was that if a gun registration was bought before or during the passing of this Act it could not be used for evidence in a court case.
The Firearm Owners Protection Act had been passed by Congress is 1986. This was a bit of a step back after working so hard for the Gun Control Act. This revised multiple provisions, and essentially protected people who owned guns. Gun dealers no longer had to keep a database of all the guns that they sold, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were only able to do an inspection once a year, and gun dealers were able to sell guns at gun shows. In 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was passed. This law came into play when someone tried to kill President Ronald Reagan with a gun, and actually ended up injuring James Brady who was a White House press secretary. This permanently disabled Brady and he eventually died in 2014 but for other reasons. Brady pushed and pushed for this to be made into a law, after being in a wheelchair and very unfortunately not able to do his job. The law made it so there was a five-day waiting period to purchase a handgun until 1998, and then then federally licensed gun deals would need to have a National Instant Criminal Background Check System from the FBI before they were able to buy any type of firearm. (Kim) The National Rifle Association tried to do everything they could do stop this law from being passed but President Bill Clinton put this law into effect on February 28, 1994.
Once 1994 came around the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was written by Senator Joe Biden, and signed by President Clinton. After the 101 California shooting, and the Waco shooting, there was too much crime and shootings going on and it didn’t seem like it was going to stop anytime son. Biden said enough is enough for Biden and he proposed this law to Congress, and eventually to Clinton. This made penalties and laws much more serious and larger in many ways. There was a 10-year ban on manufactured and assault weapons. This included 19 different weapons. The death penalty was now expanded tremendously, and there were new classes for firearms. The bill also established a three strikes law. This meant that life in prison for a third serious violent-felony conviction that follows another serious violet or drug conviction. 60 new federal crimes were also created that gave an immediate death penalty punishment. Now, this law was very controversial for the people in America, especially liberal’s vs conservatives. It allocated billions of dollars in order to hire more police, and then expand the federal prison systems. But it also was increasing crime prevention programs, which costed money as well but for a good cause. (Winterton). Conservatives wanted the more violent criminals to serve longer sentences, and liked the increase money for prison building. Liberals wanted the money to go towards social programs that would just help stopping this behavior and all the crimes rather than the shootings continuing and more and more people going to prison and/or receiving the death penalty. During this time, the White House and the Congress was controlled by the same party, which of course would look more toward the liberal side of things but Clinton, although liberal, wanted to take a conservative approach to this law as well. Social programs were one of the top priorities, presumably since the President was liberal. President Clinton thought that this was the smartest bill in the history of the United States, and the money and law really caught up with the US 10 years later when the Republicans won the Congress in 1995.
U.S. Representative Todd Tiahrt created the Tiahrt Amendment in 2003. This was made to prohibit the AFT (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) from publicly releasing any data on firearms from someone who had committed a crime. They could tell law enforcement, but then they were not able to tell anyone or publicize their findings. This made it so the gun records could not be used for an investigation. The FBI had to destroy any gun purchase records which had been approved within 24 hours. This made it very hard for the AFT to get the firearms from people who illegally had the gun or were one of the prohibited persons. Lastly, the AFT was not allowed to force any gun dealers to give their inventory to law enforcement. Guns were being stolen or lost, and a huge amount of guns were being unaccounted for. Once 2004 hit the ten-year ban had ended and was not renewed by Congress. This led several states to either ban guns or completely regulate them. Shortly after this in 2005, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was signed by President George W. Bush. This was to help protect gun manufacturers from being named publicly when there was a lawsuit in court having to do with their guns. Ultimately saying that you could sell a gun to someone, hopefully legally, and stay completely out of any trouble if someone had used one of your guns for a crime. This was even for gun distributors, dealers, and importers. Obviously this made purchasing guns much easier since the people selling them didn’t care about who they were selling them to since they weren’t going to get into trouble.
In 2008, this law had been slightly loosened and the AFT were now able to use firearms registration and trace data for national intelligence purposes. (Gifford) President George W. Bush signed the National Instant Criminal Background Check Improvement Act. This was supported by opponents and advocates of gun control, since ultimately it is a fair thing to do to keep our Country safe. Everyone who purchased a gun had to have a background check no matter what. People with mental illness really had to ability to purchase any type of firearm. A few months later, the decision was made for the District of Columbia vs. Heller case. The U.S. Supreme Court had finally answered if the right to bear arms is an individual right or a collective right. (Rose) They ruled that the Second Amendment protect an individual’s right to own a gun for a lawful use, for instance self-defense. This ruling then overturned a 32-year old ban on the possession of handguns in the District of Columbia. (Longley)
While Barak Obama was president in 2010, a federal law was signed by him saying that licensed gun owners were able to bring their firearms into national parks and wildlife refuges if the state law allows it. Some people including Paul Helmke, who was the president of the Brady Law, believed that national parks were the safest place for people to go until now. Obama also signed a pro-gun law which allowed licensed gun owners to bring their guns in the checked baggage on an Amtrak train. This had been banned after 9/11, but Obama had reversed it. This was a surprise for everyone since Obama was a liberal and supported gun control, and wanted the safest for the United States.
In 2015, the Fix Gun Control Act was made in order to try and close the gun show loophole. (Longley) This was made to ensure that all all individuals who are to be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed for their background check from the national instant background check system and need a background check for each firearm purchased.
After all of these laws interchanging over the years, there has still been multiple mass shootings. In 2016, a gay night club in Florida had a shooting, which killed 49 people. In 2017, there was a deadly mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas that killed 59 people and wounded more than 500 people since the gun shots were mistaken for fireworks. Not even a week after the Las Vegas shooting, Dianne Feinstein, a U.S. Senator introduced something called the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act. This act would ban the sales and possession of semiautomatic weapons that were about to turn into fully-automatic weapons. The bill states that it is unlawful for any person to sell, manufacture, transfer or possess a trigger crank, or bump-fire device that is designed to function as a semiautomatic rifle into essentially a machine gun. (Longely)
Another mass shooting then takes place in Florida in 2018. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, located in Parkland, Florida. This young man killed 17 people, and wounded another 17. The assassinator was sought to be mentally ill. He had many issues with his home life and was actually living with a friend and his parents. Whoever he bought his gun from obviously did not see these mental issues or else he should have never been able to purchase any type of weapon. President Donald Trump had his press secretary Sarah Sanders say that he supports working to raise the current minimum age for buying weapons such as the AR-15 that the assassinator had used from age 18 to 21.
As far as current gun control laws; there are a few states left that allow you to carry a concealed gun. Including; Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming. You must have a background check in order to purchase a gun, and gun dealers are also not able to sell a gun to the mentally ill, or a convicted felon.
The debate on gun control has always had many different opinions and struggles. Going back to when gun control bills began, the National Rifle Association would argue that every household should have a gun for protection and for sporting uses. It is always an issue between conservative vs liberal in politics since conservatives are usually part of the NRA and are the ones arguing for less gun control laws. President Lyndon B. Johnson had absolutely no issue when it came to the 1968 Gun Control Act. He wanted this to pass more than anyone. It had been a discussion with Congress for many years after John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Lyndon B. Johnson pushed for this policy to pass since so many people even after that had died from getting shot. 1968 was the biggest change in our history of gun control in America. During this time our country was having many crimes, and riots. Then it increased so significant where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy got shot and killed. This was the final thrust that drove congress to bring back this law, and eventually pass it. Although the NRA was not pleased with this, the leader of the group said that they are able to live with it and believe that is reasonable. (Waxman 1)
Overall, gun control laws have continuously changed throughout the years. With all of the different laws expiring, and the different Presidents in the White House adding or replacing new laws. With the Second Amendment, the citizens of America are able to have guns to be able to protect their family. Some believe that this will keep their families and themselves safe where others believe guns cause more crimes and violent actions. Through the multiple laws and bills following the Second Amendment, especially the Gun Control Act of 1968 the government has done what they believe is going to help shootings in America. These laws and bills have produced many arguments and beliefs with people and will hopefully one day be resolved. Guns are a huge part of American culture, but should part of our culture be costing humans lives? Gun control laws are going to continue to be a controversial issue and is always going to be something that going to be discussed and modified through politicians and civilians. The issues and debate on gun control laws is not going to be over anytime soon.