Gun control is a hot button topic these days, especially in light of all of the tragedies in the news. It’s hard to ignore that something needs to be done. But what? We are very far from agreeing on the appropriate gun control measures, what will work, and what’s currently not working.
I began thinking about this because the arguments for gun control have me fired up. After all, as a shooter and firearm enthusiast, it’s important to know and understand the laws. It can prevent any trouble and ensure I’m well within my rights to possess and use the firearms I love.
We risk ruining it for everyone if our improper use leads to tragedy and death. Most of us believe that the second amendment indicates our right to carry firearms, which means it’s critical that we define gun control, what it means, and how we can find a happy medium.
Perhaps you grew up in a family of gun owners and you’ve been around them since day one. Or maybe you only recently became interested. Either way, there may be a lot about gun ownership you don’t know.
For example, purchase and possession are two different things. Every state has a different law regarding the minimum age at which you can purchase or possess a firearm. The age even differs among the type of gun you plan to purchase or possess.
In addition, federal law imposes some exceptions to these rules when it comes to the temporary transfer of firearms or their use in specific activities such as ranching, farming, hunting, employment, or target practice.
While the wide variety or rules can be confusing, there’s no doubt that being responsible enough to purchase and carry a firearm can prevent a lot of accidents.
Federal law also requires that a gun shop conduct a background check on every individual purchasing a firearm at their facility. No matter how many times you’ve purchased a firearm in the past, you must go through another background check every time you purchase another.
Interestingly enough, there’s something called the gun show loophole. In some states, you may not be required to submit to a background check if you’re buying a firearm from a private party.
Again, every state differs. Plus, even if the state doesn’t require it, the facility hosting the gun show might. There are a lot of different circumstances that impact whether or not you need a background check, but in many cases, you don’t.
There are several different types of people who cannot legally possess a firearm. They include:
- A person convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year in prison (whether or not they were ever sentenced to it or served a single day)
- A person under indictment for any crime punishable by more than one year in prison
- Unlawful users of controlled substances
- A person adjudicated as a mental defective
- A person committed to a mental institution
- Illegal aliens
- A person dishonorably discharged from the military
- A person who has renounced U.S. citizenship
- A subject of a restraining order
- A person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
Individuals Selling Firearms
Nearly anyone can sell a firearm. Deals between two private parties are rarely monitored, and many gun enthusiasts who dabble in dealing on the down low know exactly who they’re selling to. They stay within their network of known people and rarely (if ever) sell to someone they don’t know.
It’s important to make this distinction because many gun control enthusiasts will argue that these deals between private parties under the radar are part of the problem.
However, responsible gun owners who acquired their firearms legally are very concerned with the safe ownership of firearms. After all, they want to protect their rights and continue to own them without restrictions.
Selling to someone they don’t know could put everything at risk, because they don’t know that person’s background, history of gun ownership and knowledge, or what they’re going to do with the firearm once they purchase it.
Anyone can sell a firearm without a federal firearms license, as long as the deal is done privately from home, online, at a flea market, or at a gun show and as long as the sale is not conducted as a part of their regular business activity.
A Federal Firearms License
That being said, a Federal Firearms License, or FFL, is required in the United States for any individual or company who wants to conduct business regarding the manufacturing or importing firearms and ammunition. It’s also required for the in-state or out-of-state sale of firearms.
The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) issues these Federal Firearms Licenses. The ATF conducts a review of the application and a background check on any individual or company who applies.
They also collect fingerprint cards and photos and conduct background checks on any other responsible persons listed on the application. This includes partners who have the power to manage business activity. It could also include corporate officers, board members, shareholders, and employees.
Once past the background check, the ATF will conduct an in-person interview and a final review. It takes roughly 60 days to complete the entire process from application to final issue of the FFL.
Anyone who cannot possess a firearm cannot get an FFL. Otherwise, as long as you are 21 years old and can legally possess a firearm, you can apply for an FFL.
Regulation of Civilian Firearms
There are two schools of thought on civilian firearms. Some people believe it’s a right and some believe it’s a privilege.
Those who believe it’s a right tend to cite the second amendment. Those who think it’s a privilege will argue that not everyone should be able to own a firearm and should first have to prove they’re responsible enough.
However, given the “innocent until proven guilty” philosophy, it’s easy to see why those who argue for their rights don’t think they should have to prove anything. It’s important to equip responsible citizens for many reasons, including their own protection and provision.
There are already measures in place to ensure firearms don’t fall into the hands of those that aren’t responsible enough, and the problem with implementing even more gun control laws is that you’re effectively disarming the good citizens.
While an argument could be made for taking away guns from those who shouldn’t have them, people who intend to break the law don’t hesitate to acquire these weapons by any means necessary. More laws won’t change that.
In fact, the United Nations conducted a global study on firearms trafficking, published in 2020. The study demonstrates that the vast majority of firearms trafficking takes place to satisfy a criminal’s need for arms to use in other unlawful activities. Drug trafficking and homicide are among the two major reasons.
People who intend to commit violent crimes don’t care how they come across the weapons they need to get the job done and more laws will not stop them.
However, regardless of what side you’re on, the government does regulate the ownership of civilian firearms at both state and federal levels. Every state is different, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws for possession.
However, the ATF regulates and enforces most of the federal policies which include:
- The National Firearms Act of 1934, regulating the manufacture and transfer of Title II weapons like machine guns, heavy weapons, explosives, and improvised firearms
- The Federal Firearms Act of 1938, requiring gun manufacturers, importers, and businesses selling firearms to have an FFL
- The Gun Control Act of 1968, restricting the interstate commerce of firearm transfers to those who are licensed
- The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, prohibiting the sale of automatic firearms manufactured after 1986 to civilians
- The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, prohibiting the possession of a firearm in a school zone
There are many more federally regulated laws enforced by the ATF and government agencies, meant to prevent unlawful use of firearms and keep people safe. It’s a form of gun control that many, even those who believe in their second amendment rights, are comfortable with.
There are a few states that require a permit to purchase or a license to possess a firearm. Some apply to all types of firearms while others only apply to handguns. Permits to purchase are typically good for a single purchase while a license to own a firearm is good for as long as the person owns the firearm.
Studies on U.S. Gun Control and Laws
Gun control laws are typically enacted after major tragedies and positioned to prevent further incidents. However, they’re often a knee-jerk reaction, formulated from emotion rather than logic, and not always effective.
People get killed by guns nearly every day. Unfortunately, people also get killed by knives, cars, and heart attacks. The rate at which these items cause injury or mortality can be spun in practically any way needed to prove a point.
Depending on the source of your facts and how the data is calculated, you’ll find varying opinions on how many people guns kill vs. how many they save. Here are some studies of note if you’re interested in learning more about how guns prevent crime and save people:
- Crimes prevented by guns
- Guns used in self defense
- How guns save people
- Guns are being used to save lives
On the flip side, you’ll find plenty of studies arguing why we need more gun control because guns kill more people than they save. These include:
- More guns do not stop more crimes
- Loose laws mean more mass shootings
- More mass shootings where gun laws are weaker
For those intrigued by the disparity in these reports, it’s amusing to see two opposing articles arguing a different conclusion from the same premise. It makes it tough to know what to believe.
As in the following two articles, it’s a constant battle for whether states should have more strict gun laws or not:
The relationship between gun laws and violent crime is complex. However, it is possible to have a very violent society without guns, as evidenced by the Soviet Union between 1965 and 1999. In fact, despite Illinois having some of the toughest gun laws in the country, Chicago is notoriously violent.
Additionally, Norway, Germany, Finland, Denmark, and France are prime examples of heavy gun ownership with very low murder rates.
It’s possible to make everyone happy, but it’s important to note that assuming more guns equals more violence or that increased ownership means less crime both sidestep very complex socioeconomic, psychological, and cultural factors that affect this type of violence.
It’s important to take a look at all the facts. For instance:
- The second amendment does protect individual gun rights, but it should not be an unlimited right to own guns.
- More gun control laws could reduce gun deaths; however, it’s already been proven that gun control laws do not deter crime.
- While legally owned guns are frequently stolen and used by criminals, gun control laws will not prevent criminals from obtaining guns or breaking the law.
- The majority of gun owners support common sense laws like background checks and bans on assault rifles.
Many of these facts are backed up research, and there are many other pros and cons to enacting more gun control laws. It’s also important to consider other factors, such as compulsory military service, which furthers gun education and can reduce gun deaths, even in countries where gun ownership per person is very high.
Finding A Moderate Balance
Gun control is a complex societal issue with many different contributing factors. Everyone has an opinion, but the facts don’t lie. More laws don’t necessarily equal less crime, but fewer regulations may also be dangerous. There’s a happy medium, we just have to find it together.