Gun Control Laws

Gun Control Laws

The idea of a subject's right to bear arms is said to date back as far as 12th Century England, when the King could call upon his people to join him in battle at any time. To suppress riots and protect the king, many subjects were asked to keep watch and take vigilante action whenever necessary. After the Protestants overthrew Catholic King James II, they were fearful of a bloody revolt and demanded gun control laws that granted them the right to possess weapons for self-defense. In America, the founding forefathers saw guns as the epitome of freedom. Part of the reason for the American Revolution was the British monarchy's attempt to disarm the colonists. Since then, the Supreme Court has struggled to define exactly what the Second Amendment meant when it said: "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."

The National Firearms Act of 1934 was the first of modern gun control laws to pass. Following Prohibition, this act imposed an excise tax of $200 on the manufacture and transfer of all Title II weapons, while also mandating their registration. Firearms moving past state lines had to be reported to the Department of Treasury (which is now the function of the Department of Justice). During this time period, rogues and gangsters ruled the streets, with headline catchers like Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, which prompted President Roosevelt to take drastic measures.

In 1986, there was a sudden change in our nation's gun control laws. The Firearms Owners Protection Act concluded that history has shown the previous laws to be unconstitutional, as explained in our Second Amendment. Interstate sales of long guns were now allowed in some cases, ammo could be shipped through the U.S. Postal Service and record keeping on ammunition sales was prohibited. Strangely enough, there was one provision banning the sale of machine guns to anyone outside of law enforcement.

Stricter gun control laws were soon to follow. In 1993, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act mandated criminal background checks on purchasers of guns for sale. In 1994, President Clinton signed into law the first ever Assault Weapons Ban, although "assault weapons" weren't clearly defined prior to its enactment and it only pertained to weapons made after 1994. Guns banned under this law were presumed to mean AK-47s, UZIs, MAC-10s and AR-15s, although the gun industry was able to manufacture almost identical models with slight differences that made them immune to the law. This ban expired in 2004 under President Bush and in 2008, the Supreme Court defeated a proposed handgun ban in the case of D.C. vs Heller, thus upholding the citizens' Second Amendment rights.

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