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A Brief History of Gun Control in the USA

Ever wished for a quick ‘n’ dirty reference on historic gun laws? Here’s a brief history of gun control in America.


The National Firearms Act of 1934 is the first federal regulation around firearms. This act required a $200 tax to be paid on the manufacturing or sale of sawed-off shotguns and full auto machine guns. You can thank the Tommy Gun, Al Capone, and Bonnie and Clyde for the prompting of this first gun control law.


Interstate gun dealers must now record their sales in a national registry. This also includes the interstate sale of ammunition. Also, individuals convicted of violent crimes are prohibited from owning firearms.


President Johnson fast-tracks the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act as well as the Gun Control Act of 1968 in the wake of three high-profile shootings involving President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. The new acts prohibit felons, drug users, and the mentally ill from owning firearms.

The legal age to purchase a firearm is also raised during this time and set at 21 years old. Also instilled are new rules for other non-firearm destructive devices, like bombs, grenades, and rockets.



The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 becomes the biggest gun rights regulation to date. This law reduces government power over individuals and firearm dealers. Once enacted, this law places restrictions on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and limits their authority. President Reagan also passes an amendment banning future sale of machine guns manufactured. Possibly the most controversial of all gun control laws, this one also prevents the government from creating a national registry of gun owners and their firearms.


In 1993, background checks become mandatory for all individuals wishing to purchase a firearm. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is created in honor of Reagan’s press secretary, who was shot in the head in an attempted assassination of the president. A follow-up to previous laws, these regulations are created to help limit sales to those parties listed in the 1968 regulations.


Due to growing gang violence, Clinton signs the notorious “Assault Weapons Ban.” Formally known as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, this new regulation created a 10-year ban on manufacturing certain new semi-automatic weapons. Included in this are the AR-15, variations of the AK-47, and other weapons common in gang activity. In addition, this gun control law also limits the number of rounds in a legal magazine to ten.

The Truth About Guns
The Truth About Guns


Congress forbids law enforcement agencies from releasing information about where criminals purchased firearms.


The 10-year assault weapons ban expires. Despite multiple attempts, the ban is not renewed by congress.


Gun manufacturers are protected under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Fortunately for manufacturers, this new regulation, signed by George W. Bush, prevents gun manufacturers from lawsuits as a result of crimes involving firearms.


A law banning handguns in the District of Columbia is ruled unconstitutional in District of Columbia vs. Heller. Seen as a victory for gun rights, the Second Amendment is credited with guaranteeing rights of citizens to possess firearms for lawful activities.

Like what you see here? If so, click here to read more great hunting, outdoor, and shooting articles by Reid Vander Veen. Also, check him out on Twitter @ReidVanderVeen and on Instagram.


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A Brief History of Gun Control in the USA