Gun control laws refer to policies which regulate the possession and purchase of firearms and this includes the types of guns that may be owned, waiting periods required for purchase as well as the classification of individuals who are prohibited from owning firearms.
The right to bear arms is protected by the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution and federal and state laws allow individuals to purchase and possess guns or firearms.
However, there are also different federal and state laws which regulate the possession and use of guns and gun owners, dealers and collectors are required to follow these laws if they wish to possess a gun or run a business selling guns.
There are some common aspects to gun control laws such as:
- Waiting periods: Many states require some amount of time to pass between the time an individual purchases a gun and the time when they can take possession of the gun. These laws seek to discourage rash or “spur-of-the-moment” crimes by imposing these “cooling off” periods.
- Background checks: A background check is mandatory in some states before an individual can purchase or own a gun and gun safety classes may also be required.
Federal laws which regulate gun ownership to some degree include the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
The NFA places restrictions on the sale or possession of short-barreled shotguns, machine guns and silencers. If someone wishes to purchases a firearm or device which is regulated by the NFA, they must take the following steps:
- 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.
Some states such as New York and California have prohibited the ownership of firearms and devices governed by the NFA. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act prohibits guns for personal or business use if any of the following applies:
- If you are a fugitive from justice.
- If you are addicted to, or illegally use any controlled substance.
- If you were convicted of a crime which was punishable by a prison term of more than one year.
- If you are in a mental institution or if you have been ruled mentally unfit by a court.
- If you were dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces.
- If you are a U.S. citizen and you renounced your U.S. citizenship.
- If you are living in the U.S. unlawfully.
- If you were convicted of domestic violence in any court.
- If you have a restraining order against you which involves your intimate partner, partner’s child or children.
Gun laws vary considerably depending on the state and some states have many more gun restrictions compared to others. Whenever they visit other states, some gun owners will be granted reciprocity and recognition for any “right to carry” gun laws which they had in their home state but this does not apply in every state.
Also, twelve states currently prohibit employers from firing employees who leave their guns locked in their personal vehicles on company property while the other states allow employers to restrict their employees from having weapons in their cars or trucks on company property.
Also, in terms of laws which either allow or prohibit you from openly carrying a gun in public, states typically fall into one of these four categories:
- Permissive open carry states where you are allowed to carry a gun without a permit or license.
- Licensed open carry states where gun owners are allowed to carry firearms openly only after they are issued a permit or license.
- Anomalous open carry states where carrying a gun openly may be generally lawful under state law but where local governments have the right to pass their own gun laws which are more restrictive compared to the state laws.
- Non-permissive open carry states where state law prohibits carrying a gun openly or where it is legal only in a few circumstances such as hunting or self-defense.
Violation of gun control laws are serious crimes which can result in consequences such as a prison term of more than one year, heavy monetary fines, parole or probation periods and sometimes also the complete loss of gun ownership rights.
If you are facing criminal gun possession charges, it is important to contact a local criminal defense attorney who can inform you about your rights and represent you in court if necessary.