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Gun Control Laws

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What Are Gun Control Laws?

Federal and state laws allow individuals to purchase and possess guns or firearms. However, both gun possession and the use of guns are heavily regulated by gun control laws. Gun control laws cover a wide range of activities and rights associated with firearms in attempts to curb gun violence.   

In general, the phrase “gun control” refers to governmental efforts to limit or restrict the production, sale, possession and use of guns by private citizens. Gun control laws usually involve personal firearms such as hand guns and long guns. The right to bear arms is referenced in the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

What Are Some Common Aspects of Gun Control Laws?

Gun control laws may vary widely according to region. For example, gun control laws tend to be less restrictive in rural areas than urban areas, due to the higher number of sportsmen and hunters in rural populations. Some states impose stricter gun control laws, especially those with urban cities with high crime rates.

Gun control laws cover nearly all aspects of firearm use and possession, including:

  • Waiting Periods: Many states require some amount of time (usually a few days) to pass between the time a person purchases a gun and the time when they can take possession of the firearm. Waiting period laws seek to discourage rash or “spur-of the-moment” crimes by imposing these “cool-off” periods.
  • Background Checks: A background check of criminal records is mandatory in some states before one can purchase or assume ownership of a gun. Gun safety classes may also be required.
  • Gun Permits and Registration: A gun permit may required to purchase and use a firearm, and some states require all guns to be registered.
  • Bans on Certain Types of Guns: Gun control laws sometimes create an outright ban on some types of guns, including.
    • Unregistered and illegal guns
    • Concealed weapons
    • Assault weapons such as machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, automatic firearms, and guns equipped with silencers
  • Possession of Guns in a School Zone: Nearly all states ban the use and possession of guns in a school or near school zones.
  • Restricted Classes: Classes of persons who may not purchase or own a gun include:
    • Convicted felons
    • Minors
    • Aliens

States that have very permissive gun control laws may apply exceptions to their rules. For example, Arizona gun laws permit “open carrying” of guns in public. However, Arizona’s open carry policy contains many exceptions, including a prohibition on guns in certain places such as establishments that serve alcohol or in correctional facilities. 

Lastly, state laws can vary widely depending on the type of gun in question. One type of gun may be prohibited in one area, but allowed in another region. In general, an outright ban on all guns is generally held to be unconstitutional according to the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. 

Be advised that gun control laws change frequently in response to current events. There is often active debate surrounding gun control, so be sure to contact an attorney if you have any questions about the current state of the law in your area.

What Are the Penalties for Violating Gun Control Laws?

Violations of gun control laws, such as a straw purchase, usually result in felony charges. These are very serious crimes which may result in penalties including prison sentences for longer than one year, heavy monetary fines, parole or probation periods, and sometimes the complete loss of gun ownership rights. 

Also, some state gun control laws are not specific to residents of that state, meaning that visitors to a state may be prosecuted under local laws even if they do not live there. 

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

State-imposed gun control laws are constantly changing in response to constitutional challenges. You should consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney if you have questions regarding your rights. Also, a criminal lawyer can represent you in court if you are facing criminal gun possession charges.

Photo of page author Peter Clarke

, LegalMatch Content Manager

Last Modified: 03-07-2018 10:26 PM PST

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