Gun laws: A look at the last century of legislation

Photo: MGN Online

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - As Congress returns to Capitol Hill this week following a 10-day break, many are facing public pressure to take action on gun violence following the deaths of 17 people at a Florida high school on Valentine's Day.

While some have suggested proposals, The Associated Press reports no plan appears ready to take off quite yet.

Originally, there were 12 amendments proposed to the Bill of Rights but only 10 were ratified by three -fourths of the state legislatures on Dec. 15, 1791. Those 10 Amendments became our nation's Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights included the Second Amendment authored by James Madison which 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."

The interpretation of the Second Amendment has been fiercely debated for years. One of the major pieces of legislation that impacted gun control legislation in the last century was the National Firearms Act of 1934. The piece of legislation was later amended several times.

For a look at the most recent modifications to gun laws, check out the list below:

National Firearms Act (1934)

The National Firearms Act was enacted by Congress in 1934. The law "imposed a tax on the making and transfer of firearms defined by the Act, as well as a special (occupational) tax on persons and entities engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing, and dealing in NFA firearms," according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The also required the registration of NFA guns with the Secretary of the Treasury. The guns specified in the 1934 version of the Act included shotguns, rifles with a barrel less than 18 inches in length, "any other weapon," machineguns, firearm mufflers and silencers. These types of firearms were found by Congress to be of concern due to their frequent use in crimes.

Here are the current firearms regulations under the NFA:

  • "shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;
  • a weapon made from a shotgun if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;
  • a rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;
  • a weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;
  • any other weapon, as defined in subsection (e);
  • a machinegun;
  • any silencer (as defined in section 921 of title 18, United States Code); and
  • a destructive device. [26 U.S.C. 5845; 27 CFR 479.11]

Along with the registration of the firearm, a $200 tax was imposed and had to be paid at the initial registration and again if the gun is later sold. This portion of the law has remained unchanged since 1934.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 amended the National Firearms Act of 1934.

The Gun Control Act (1968)

The Gun Control Act was enacted by Congress in 1968. The law regulated the "interstate and foreign commerce in firearms, including importation, "prohibited persons," and licensing provisions," according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Meaning the law imposes stricter licensing and regulation on the firearms industry and also established new categories of firearms offenses. The "prohibited persons" provisions prohibit the sale of firearms and ammunition to felons. This law also created the first Federal Jurisdiction over "destructive devices" including bombs, grenades and other explosive devices.

Following the enactment of the Gun Control Act, four additional laws The Brady Law, Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, The Patriot Act and NICS Improvement Amendments Act were amended to the 1968 law.

  • The Brady Law (1993): In 1993, Congress enacted the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act also known as the Brady law. The Act amended the Gun Control Act of 1968. This law "created a mandatory five-day waiting period for purchasing handguns. The provision allows law enforcement to check the background of each handgun purchaser before delivery of any handguns are made by Federal firearms dealers," according to the Justice Department. Congressman Charles E. Schumer, D- NY, sponsored the bill.
  • The Brady Law (1998): A few year later in 1998, the mandatory five-day waiting period for transfer of a gun is "replaced by the mandatory background checks through the National Instant Criminal Check System (NICS) for firearm purchasers," according to the Department of Justice. This change ensured that all the permanent provisions of the law.
  • NICS Improvement Amendments Act (2007): The National Instant Criminal Background Check System Improvement Amendments Act was enacted by Congress in 2007 and signed by President George W. Bush in 2008. This law amends the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to: "(1) authorize the Attorney General to obtain electronic versions of information from federal agencies on persons disqualified from receiving firearms; (2) require federal agencies to provide such information to the Attorney General, not less frequently than quarterly; and (3) require federal agencies to update, correct, modify, or remove obsolete records and notify the Attorney General of such actions to keep the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) up to date. Requires the Attorney General to submit annual reports to Congress on the compliance of federal agencies with such reporting requirements," according to House of Representatives.
  • Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (2000): The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act was enacted by Congress in 2000. This law reformed "the procedures and burden of proof applicable to civil forfeiture of various kinds of property, including the forfeiture of firearms under the Gun Control Act; permitted the forfeiture of property in criminal proceedings where forfeiture was traditionally limited to civil actions," according to the Department of Justice.
  • The Patriot Act (2001): Following Sept. 11, 2001, Congress passed The Patriot Act that same year. The law designated two offenses under the Gun Control Act. Those two sections were "under section 922(l) and trafficking under section 924(n)]," according to the Department of Justice.

Between 1993 and 2001 when the Gun Control Act was amended, there were additional laws created pertaining to firearm regulations.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994)

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was passed by Congress in 1994. This law expanded the current laws enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bill also "added a new category of prohibited persons: any person under certain restraining orders; implemented a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons," according to the Justice Department. This banned the manufacturing of 19 "military-style" assault weapons and some 'high-capacity" magazines with more than 10 rounds, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

  • The Omnibus Appropriations Act (1999): The Omnibus Appropriations Act was passed into law by Congress in 1999. The law adds "nonimmigrant aliens" to categories of persons prohibited from possessing firearms, and required firearms dealers to have available secure gun storage or safety devices," according to the ATF.

Homeland Security Act (2002)

The Homeland Security Act was enacted by Congress in 2002 and created The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF). The "authorities, functions, personnel, and assets of ATF from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Justice (DOJ), and created within DOJ the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which continues to be referred to as ATF," according to the Department of Justice.

Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (2005)

This law was passed by Congress in 2005. The law prohibits qualified civil liability action, or lawsuit, from being filed in any state or federal court against "a manufacturer or seller of a firearm." This also includes manufacturers of ammunition or components of firearms that have "been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, or against a trade association of such manufacturers or sellers, for damages, punitive damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, abatement, restitution, fines, penalties, or other relief resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm. Requires pending actions to be dismissed," according to the Act's filing.

District of Columbia v. Heller (2007 -2008)

At the time of this case, the District of Columbia law prohibiting handguns in the nation's capital was already enacted by the DC city council in 1976. Defendant Dick Anthony Heller worked as an armed security guard and wanted to bring his handgun home at the end of the evening. The District rejected his application to keep the gun in his home. The District Court then appealed to the Supreme Court. In 2008, the Supreme Court found DC's handgun ban to be unconstitutional and struck down the lower court ruling.

Pending legislation...

Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 passed a vote in the House on Dec. 6, 2017. It then was received by the Senate and read twice before being referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. The bill is still in committee.





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