The Second Amendment of the U.S. 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." Gun owners often cite the Second Amendment when arguing against gun restrictions. However, gun owners, dealers, and collectors must follow state and federal laws if they wish to possess a firearm or run a business selling guns. Read on to learn more about state and federal gun laws.
Federal Gun Laws
Federal law regulates gun ownership to some degree, including placing restrictions on the ownership of certain types of firearms. The National Firearms Act (NFA), for instance, places restrictions on the sale or possession of short-barreled shotguns, machine guns, and silencers. In order to purchase one of these "NFA firearms or devices," owners must go through an extensive background check, purchase a tax stamp for the manufacture of the firearm or device, and register the weapon with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' NFA registry. However, it should be noted that some states, including New York and California, have prohibited the ownership of these types of firearms and devices.
Under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, you cannot have a gun for personal or business use if you:
1. Were convicted of a crime punishable by being in prison for more than one year;
2. Are a fugitive from justice;
3. Are addicted to, or illegally use, any controlled substance;
4. Have been ruled mentally defective by a court, or are committed to a mental institution;
5. Are an illegal alien living in the United States unlawfully;
6. Received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces;
7. Renounced your U.S. citizenship, if you are a U.S. citizen;
8. Are subject to a court restraining order that involves your 'intimate partner,' your partner's child, or children; or
9. Were convicted of domestic violence in any court of a misdemeanor.
The Brady Act's lasting legacy has been more than 100 million Brady-mandated background checks have been conducted since its passage in 1994.
The Federal government has been slow to enact any gun control restrictions, but the October 2017 mass shooting of 58 people in Las Vegas prompted restrictions on "bump stocks" that were used to turn a semi-automatic rifle into one that acted like a fully automatic rifle. No new legislation was passed, but the definition of "machine gun" found in Federal statute 18 U.S.C. section 922(o) was changed to include bump stocks by President Trump's executive order.
State Gun Laws
State gun laws vary considerably (see "State Gun Control Laws" for a state-by-state directory). Some states have many more firearms restrictions than others. Some gun owners who visit other states will be granted reciprocity and recognition for any "right to carry" gun laws they had in their home state. Not all states grant such rights. "Right to carry" laws are federal and state constitution provisions that recognize a gun owner's right to use her or his gun for defensive purposes.
Some states give gun owners more rights than others do. For example, twelve states currently prohibit employers from firing employees who leave guns locked in their personal vehicles on company property. That means 38 other states do allow companies to restrict employees from having weapons in their cars or trucks on company property.
States also have laws that either allow or prohibit you from openly carrying a gun in public. These are called "open carry" laws. Generally, states fall into one of four categories:
State gun laws can also change in reaction to tragedies. Take New York, for instance. After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in which 20 children and six adults were murdered in Connecticut, many states passed legislation strengthening their gun control laws. New York was one of the first states to act after the mass shooting, bypassing the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 -- commonly known as the NY SAFE Act.
If you just moved to a state with an open carry law, there is often a waiting period before you can apply for an open carry permit. Open carry restrictions are often the subject of lawsuits filed by gun owners against states where they reside.
If you have additional questions, be sure to contact a gun rights attorney near you.
Guns and Your Legal Rights
If you are charged with the illegal possession of a gun or have been accused of a firearms-related crime, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. Some of the legal factors that an attorney can review with you include:
Gun Laws: Getting Help with Criminal Gun Charges
Gun Safety Tips
Legal Help After a Gun-Related Incident
Sadly, gun incidents have become more and more common in America. Since the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy, there have been dozens of gun incidents at U.S. schools and universities. Indeed, deadly shootings have occurred in all manner of public places - offices, shopping malls, public and private property.
Hopefully, you are never affected by such an incident. In the event you do need help, you may want options for whom to talk to:
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.