5 Milestones in Gun Control History
Is gun control common-sense regulation or a tyrannical overstep of government bounds? It’s a question that rages today in the wake of mass shootings at places like Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. But it’s not a new question, as a glance at American history will prove.
The battle centers over the wording of the Second Amendment to the Constitution — “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” — and what it might mean in a modern world with deadlier weapons than those borne by the Founding Fathers. Read on for a brief history of how America’s gun laws have evolved.
1. First ban
Prior to the 1920s, there was little talk of gun control except at a state level, and many of those laws were aimed at keeping weapons out of the hands of African-Americans in southern states rather than regulating firearms more generally. In 1927, though, Congress reacted to the mob violence of Prohibition with the first federal gun restriction ever. The law banned the mail-order sale of handguns or any other concealable firearm. [7 Great Congressional Dramas]
Likewise, it was mobsters (and their predilection for “Tommy Gun” or Thompson submachine gun) who inspired Congress’ second act of gun control, the National Firearms Act of 1934. This act taxed firearms under 18 inches (46 centimeters) in length and required registration of those same guns — a restriction later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1968, because it might require gun owners to self-incriminate if they attempted to register a weapon illegal in their home state, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The registration requirement was removed from later versions of the law.
2. Gun control goes big …
Violence again served as an impetus for legislation in the 1960s, when the gun assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., prompted Congress to pass the Gun Control Act of 1968.
The Act restricted the sale of firearms to certain groups, such as convicted criminals, anyone ever committed to a mental institution and anyone ever convicted of domestic violence. It also required licensing of firearms dealers, amid other interstate commerce restrictions.
At the signing of the bill, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Today we begin to disarm the criminal and the careless and the insane. All of our people who are deeply concerned in this country about law and order should hail this day.”
However, Johnson also lamented that the bill did not include a national system of registration and licensing for firearms.
“If guns are to be kept out of the hands of the criminal, out of the hands of the insane, and out of the hands of the irresponsible, then we just must have licensing,” he said. “If the criminal with a gun is to be tracked down quickly, then we must have registration in this country.”
3. … But faces backlash
Not everyone agreed with Johnson. The 1968 Gun Control Act broadened the powers of the ATF and raised the ire of the the National Rifle Association (NRA), which in the 1970s became more hard-line about gun rights. In 1979, the NRA’s new lobbying branch, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, drafted legislation to loosen the 1968 law, according to the group’s website. On May 19, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed an amended version of this first draft into law.
The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act rolled back many of the penalties in the 1968 law and banned any federal agency from keeping a registry of guns and their owners. [Guns in the U.S. (Infographic)]
MORE . . .
- 5 Milestones in Gun Control History (livescience.com)
- The NRA once supported gun control (salon.com)
- The Suprising Unknown History of the NRA (alternet.org)
- NRA was pro-gun control when it came to Black Panthers (thegrio.com)
- Obama’s secret plan to reclassify your guns (wnd.com)
Posted on January 14, 2013, in 2nd Amendment, U.S. Constitution and tagged 1968 Gun Control Act, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, gun rights, John F. Kennedy, LiveScience, Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King, Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association, Ronald Reagan. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.