Overview of US Gun Laws

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Gun violence has become a larger area of interest for citizens of the United States. Gun violence has changed in many different ways since the 1700s. In 1791 the U.S. Constitution was put into place which included laws about guns and gun violence. The Constitution states, “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”. This means that anyone who is a citizen of the U.S has the right to access guns. This paper will review gun laws in relation to the United States and the changes which have been made and why concerning mass massacres.

Starting in 1934 the National Firearms Act (NFA) was set into place. The NFA ruled that there would be a tax on the making and transfer of firearms. This law required registration of firearms with the Secretary of the Treasury (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives). The law also required firearms to be more regulated based on the size and shape of the gun. The transformation of these regulations meant a lot for the Nation as a whole. No longer were guns going to be non-regulated. This law made the concern for safety less of a problem.

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With the new law set in place, policymakers could hope for a better and safer future after crimes of the era, such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. This widely known massacre happened during the late 1920s. Al Capone (facilitator) sought to consolidate control by eliminating his rivals in the illegal trades of bootlegging, gambling and prostitution.

Four years later in 1938, another law was set in place called the Federal Firearms Act (FFA). Franklin D. Roosevelt saw a need for the federal government to help out with the trafficking of guns. The law requires gun manufactures, importers and dealers to obtain a federal firearms license. The new law also made it so convicted felons would not be able to purchase guns. With this new law, citizens could imply that with the new law set in place, they were in a better position for safety.

Thirty years have passed and President at the time Lyndon B. Johnson pushed for another passage to be added to the Constitution. He would call this the Gun Control Act of 1968. This new transformation would include language about destructive devices such as bombs, mines and grenades. They also expanded the definition of a machine gun. After three decades of unclarity, citizens were finally starting to get a sense of the Gun Laws and how they are impacting their lives.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 as well had other implications regarding safety and the use and ownership of guns. The bill as well-made age limits for the purchase of handguns, now owners would have to be at least 21 years of age. The new bill also prohibited felons, mentally ill people, and others from purchasing guns. The transition of gun violence from the 1930’s-1960’s has changed which as well caused the need for updates within the law. There are currently said to be two different trends in America regarding gun violence. Mass shootings that happened between the 1930s-1960s were mostly familicides and felony related killings. Fast forward to present day, most mass shootings are now in public places against unknown bystanders. From the years 2000-2010 alone, there were 84 active shooter situations in the United States.

The increased number of shootings within the past decades leading up to the 2000s without a doubt raises questions as to what is to come next. As a college student nearing the year 2020, I think a lot of things have changed. The significance as well as reasoning for the mass shootings have different purposes. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happened because Al Capone wanted to eliminate his northside rivals. Another famous massacre that happened in the United States was the 1999 Columbine school shooting. It was speculated that the perpetrators Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold purposely chose athletes, minorities and Christians as their victims. Though these massacres are different, they were historic and changed the laws regarding guns.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 should have made it so an event like Columbine School Shooting didn’t happen. The bill banned importing guns that have “no shooting purpose,” imposed age restrictions for the purchase of handguns (gun owners had to be 21), prohibited felons, the mentally ill, and others from purchasing guns, required that all manufactured or imported guns have a serial number. Even though this law is in place, the two students at Columbine had guns. Eric Harris (18) and Dylan Klebold (17) found a loophole and asked a friend to buy them guns after they were turned down when trying to purchase them. Mark Manes, the man who sold a gun to Harris and bought him 100 rounds of ammunition the day before the murders, was sentenced to six years in prison.

In 2001, George W. Bush signed the act called Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. This act prevented the gun manufacturers from being named in federal or state civil suits by those who were victims of crimes involving guns made by that company. Instead of suing the gun manufactures, however the parents of the victims of the Columbine school shooting sued Manes and Philip Duran. They won $900,000 in settlements with the two men that provided Harris and Klebold with the gun used in the massacre. The addition of the new act may have been because the gun used, TEC-DC9, which is the focus of the wrongful death claim. These types of guns can no longer be made in the United States.

A more recent school shooting that took place was the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. Though the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was in place, the families of the victims sued the Remington Arms Company for being the maker and producer of the AR-15 style rifle that was used in the shooting. The Connecticut supreme court blocked Remington’s bid to block the lawsuit. They ruled that the families of the victims of Sandy Hook school shooting can sue Remington for marketing military-style weapons to civilians. According to the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that shouldn’t have happened. Remington says the case “presents a nationally important question” about U.S. gun laws – namely, how to interpret the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which grants broad immunity to gun makers and dealers from prosecution over crimes committed with their products. Some people argue that the gun companies shouldn’t be sued, because the gun didn’t kill the person, the person killed the person.

According to the Gun Violence Archives, there has been 395 mass shootings this year. There has only been 342 days in the year so far. With less than a month left, 2019 already has the highest number of mass shootings in any year since 2014. With gun violence and mass massacres on the rise, there should be a new bill imposed so that the laws can fit in with the new society.

This essay touched based on some of the gun laws that are in the United States. Gun laws have changed tremendously since the 1791 U.S. Constitution. Some of the gun laws included are the National Firearms Act, Federal Firearms Act, Gun Control Act of 1968, and the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. It is important to remember some of the reasons why these laws were made such as the Valentine’s day massacre, the Columbine school shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. As a nation, we have faced many horrific mass massacres. Since gun violence is on a rise, we also have to unite as a country and realize that we need to keep everyone safe.

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Overview of US Gun Laws. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/overview-of-us-gun-laws/
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