Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
With the recent school shooting in Florida have come increased calls for further gun control laws. So before considering new laws, I thought I should look to see what the current laws are regarding who can legally purchase and own guns in the US. Here’s what I find:
Purchasing A Firearm From A Dealer
Provided that federal law and the laws of both the dealer’s and purchaser’s states and localities are complied with:
An individual 21 years of age or older may acquire a handgun from a dealer federally licensed to sell firearms in the individual’s state of residence
An individual 18 years of age or older may purchase a rifle or shotgun from a federally licensed dealer in any state
It shall be unlawful for any licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer to sell, deliver, or transfer a firearm unless the federal firearms licensee receives notice of approval from a prescribed source approving the transfer.
Sale of a firearm by a federally licensed dealer must be documented by a federal form 4473, which identifies and includes other information about the purchaser, and records the make, model, and serial number of the firearm. Sales to an individual of multiple handguns within a five-day period require dealer notification to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Violations of dealer record keeping requirements are punishable by a penalty of up to $1000 and one year’s imprisonment.
The following classes of people are ineligible to possess, receive, ship, or transport firearms or ammunition:
Those convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for over one year, except state misdemeanors punishable by two years or less.
Fugitives from justice.
Unlawful users of certain depressant, narcotic, or stimulant drugs.
Those adjudicated as mental defectives or incompetents or those committed to any mental institution.
Citizens who have renounced their citizenship.
Those persons dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces.
Persons less than 18 years of age for the purchase of a shotgun or rifle.
Persons less than 21 years of age for the purchase of a firearm that is other than a shotgun or rifle.
Persons subject to a court order that restrains such persons from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner.
Persons convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
Persons under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year are ineligible to receive, transport, or ship any firearm or ammunition. Under limited conditions, relief from disability may be obtained from the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, or through a pardon, expungement, restoration of rights, or setting aside of a conviction.
The main federal law governing fully automatic weapons is called the National Firearms Act, or NFA. First enacted in 1934, this federal law regulates:
fully automatic weapons
large caliber firearms
short-barreled rifles and shotguns
and destructive devices such as bombs or grenades.
So for those advocating for more gun laws, and I’m open to that argument, here’s my difficulty:
Given the above existing laws, just what other restrictions do you want to put on gun purchase, legal types of weapons, and ownership?
Serious question, not rhetorical, it would be good if there were an answer. I put the list up because I keep hearing people saying things like “mental patients shouldn’t be able to own guns”, not realizing that that is already illegal.
If you’d be so kind, please restrict yourselves to laws that at least have a chance of passing Constitutional muster …
A final bit of trivia to consider in this question, about what are called “assault weapons” such as AR-15s. The numbers are quite clear. Every year, many more Americans are murdered with rocks and clubs (hammers, ball bats, golf clubs, etc.) than are killed, not just by assault weapons, but by all types of rifles and shotguns combined … go figure.
I’m not seeing any magic bullet in there, to use an unfortunate metaphor, to solve this problem. I mean, the obvious stuff has already been covered as to who can’t own guns—criminals, people under a restraining order, people convicted of domestic violence, people dishonorably discharged from the Military, and the like. And everyone buying a gun already has to have a background check.
Now yes, we can make “bump stocks” illegal, and we should. But there’s been exactly one crime committed with a bump stock so it won’t make a big difference. I don’t see a whole lot of visible avenues left to recommend … so, suggestions welcome.
Best to all in this marvelous and parlous world, stay safe, dear friends,