Guns: Gun Rights & Laws
People own guns for several reasons, including self-protection, hunting, target shooting, and collecting. Others use them illicitly - whether to help them commit a crime or directly murder others.
The Constitution's Second Amendment protects some aspects of gun ownership and use.
Gun legislation attempts to balance the right to own weapons against public safety concerns.
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Judge overturns California assault weapon ban
|2021-Jun-05||By: Barry Shatzman|
A U.S. district judge has ruled that California's ban on assault weapons violates the Constitution's Second Amendment.
The California Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA) has banned certain types of weapons since 1989.
In the first sentence of his ruling, Judge Roger Benitez compared the "popular" AR-15 rifle to a Swiss Army Knife - calling it a "perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense weapon."
Ruling the California law unconstitutional, he called the AR-15 the type of "versatile" gun that "lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller and United States v. Miller.
"This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes," he wrote.
The ban remains in place for now, as Benitez granted a stay for California to appeal.
Congress pulls rule keeping guns from mentally unstable
|2017-Feb-08  (Updated: 2017-Feb-15)||By: Rob Dennis|
The House of Representatives and Senate have voted to repeal a regulation that would ban gun ownership by disabled Social Security recipients with mental disorders.
The regulation affects an estimated 75,000 beneficiaries who receive Disability Insurance benefits based on mental impairments. The regulation would have added their names to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). - preventing them from purchasing guns.
The rule was finalized in the final months of the Obama administration, after an evaluation process that included almost 100,000 comments from the public.
The repeal was not subject to a Senate filibuster because the rule is being nullified under the Congressional Review Act. It still needs a signature by President Trump to take effect.
For more, read the Politico story.
Click here to read the rule from the Social Security Administration. (The summary is short. You can read further for a description of the process used to evaluate the regulation).
Click here to read the fact sheet on gun violence measures from the Obama administration (which includes this one).
The National Rifle Association lobbied against the rule for more than a year. For more, read the their statement.
Click here for more on the resolution.
Click here to see what other Obama administration protections Congress is working to revoke using the Congressional Review Act.
Ban on undetectable guns renewed for 10 years
|2013-Dec-03  (Updated: 2013-Dec-11)||By: Barry Shatzman|
The 1988 law banning plastic guns is set to expire on Dec. 9.
The Undetectable Firearms Act made it illegal to make or own guns that cannot be detected by airport security.
Though enacted 25 years ago, the law is especially relevant today with 3-D printers becoming more readily available. The printers create objects by spraying plastic in a precise pattern of layers - building up the object out of thin air. Guns made from a 3-D printer have been successfully demonstrated.
On Dec. 3 the House of Representatives voted to extend the law through 2023. Some representatives had asked for the extension to include provisions for these new plastic guns - including a restriction that guns include a non-removable metal piece. The extension passed by the house did not contain any new restrictions.
Rep. Thomas Massie was the only "no" vote.
The extension still needs to be approved by the Senate before being sent to President Obama to be signed into law.
For more, read the Think Progress article.
The Senate passed the extension to this bill, which President Obama will sign using a remote pen. He currently is in South Africa attending a memorial for former South African President Nelson Mandela.
The bill is a simple extension, and does not include provisions for newer technologies such as plastic guns that can be produced using a 3-D printer.
For more, read the Politico.com article.Jump to top of page
Gun control bill amendments would have hindered enforcement
|2013-Apr-18||By: Rob Dennis|
While some senators have proposed measures to beef up federal gun-control legislation, others are trying to roll back the laws that do exist - by proposing amendments to the overall gun-control bill the Senate has yet to debate.
One amendment passed, meaning it would be incorporated into the original bill...
Sen. John Barrasso proposed an amendment that would punish states for releasing the names and addresses of gun owners - even when legally required to do so. The law would withhold 5 percent of federal Community Oriented Policing Services program funding from state and local governments that release "sensitive and confidential information" about law-abiding gun owners and victims of domestic violence.
Barrasso's amendment was prompted by the New York Journal News' publication in December of an online interactive map of gun owners in two New York suburban counties. The names and addresses of gun permit holders are public record in New York, and were obtained under the state's Freedom of Information Law.
The only exemptions in Barrasso's amendment are for criminal investigations and court or administrative hearings. Therefore, the measure would force state officials to choose between losing federal funding and violating their own public records laws. It passed 67-30.
To read the rest of News In Five's coverage on this gun legislation, click here.
Senate rejects ban on assault weapons
|2013-Apr-18||By: Rob Dennis|
The Senate has rejected proposals to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Only 40 senators voted in favor of a measure that would have prohibited more than 150 specific semi-automatic rifles or handguns with features including pistol grips, grenade launchers or rocket launchers.
The amendment, proposed by Sen. Diane Feinstein, would have excluded more than 2,250 firearms used for hunting, as well as weapons legally owned before the bill's enactment. But it would have required background checks for the sale or transfer of grandfathered weapons and banned the sale or transfer of previously owned large-capacity magazines.
It was an expanded version of the previous federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Unlike that law, passed in 1994, this ban would not have had an expiration date.
Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Richard Blumenthal proposed a separate measure banning ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. It also failed, by a vote of 46-54.
The amendments were among nine changes proposed to the overall gun-control bill. To read the rest of News In Five's coverage on this gun legislation, click here.
Senate effectively kills gun control - for now
|2013-Apr-18||By: Rob Dennis|
The Senate effectively killed its most recent legislation on gun control by voting down two major amendments to it.
The amendments were among nine changes proposed to the overall gun-control bill.
One of the amendments, which would have required background checks on those who purchase guns at gun shows or over the Internet, received a majority of the vote but failed the receive the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster.
The other, which would have banned certain assault weapons, failed by a 40-60 vote.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now plans to put the entire legislation on hold rather than pass something that likely would be ineffective. He has the option to reintroduce the bill at a later date.
Filibuster rules help kill background check law
|2013-Apr-17||By: Rob Dennis|
Legislation that would have expanded background checks to guns purchased at gun shows, from printed ads, and over the Internet was rejected by the Senate, despite having the support of a majority of senators.
The compromise - brokered by Sens. Joe Manchin and Patrick Toomey - was an amendment to a package of legislation aimed at reducing gun violence. The amendment still would have allowed relatives, neighbors and friends to give and sell guns to one another -- a loophole that would have ignored 80 percent of criminal gun sales.
Background checks currently are only required on guns purchased from federally licensed gun dealers.
The original package, including a more expansive background-check measure, was approved by the Judiciary Committee along party lines. It has yet to be debated by the full Senate.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun lobbyists opposed the compromise. The NRA has said it will score senators on their votes, and launched a $500,000 online ad opposing gun control.
A majority of senators - 54 - voted in favor of the amendment, with 46 senators voting against it. Yet Senate filibuster rules mean that 60 votes were required to pass it.
The following Republican senators cast "NO" votes on the amendment...
Lamar Alexander, Kelly Ayotte, John Barrasso, Max Baucus, Mark Begich, Roy Blunt, John Boozman, Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Daniel Coats, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Bob Corker, John Cornyn, Mike Crapo, Ted Cruz, Michael Enzi, Deb Fischer, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, John Hoeven, James Inhofe, Johnny Isakson, Mike Johanns, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Mitch McConnell, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Mark Pryor, James Risch, Pat Roberts, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, John Thune, David Vitter, Roger Wicker.
These Democrats cast "NO" votes...
Heidi Heitkamp, Harry Reid.
Note: Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, changed his vote to "no" so that he would be allowed under the Senate's rules to bring the proposal up again in the future.
For more, read the Washington Post article.Jump to top of page
Background check bill exludes 80 percent of criminal guns
|2013-Apr-11||By: Rob Dennis and Barry Shatzman|
The Senate is set to begin debate on a set of gun-control bills. The first bill likely to be discussed would be one to require background checks for firearms sales at gun shows and over the Internet.
The bill is a deal brokered by Senators Joe Manchin and Patrick Toomey. It also would expand certain gun rights, including loosening rules for transporting firearms across state lines.
There is a loophole in the bill, however. It would exempt "personal transfers," allowing relatives, neighbors and friends to give and sell guns to one another. Yet, in a 2004 U.S. Department of Justice survey, 4 out of every 10 people imprisoned for gun crimes said they got the firearms from family or friends. Almost another 40 percent said they received them from street or black market suppliers.
In other words, the bill would ignore almost 80 percent of nefarious gun sales.
A separate bill being considered in the House of Representatives could narrow that loophole. The Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act would make it a felony to buy a gun for someone who is prohibited from owning it. The 15-year minimum penalty is intended to deter such purchases - especially if the original purchaser can be traced with expanded background checks.
The two bills together also may help shut down the black market.
"The street has to get its guns from somewhere, after all. Someone with a clean record can buy 60 guns at a gun show and then begin selling them at a healthy mark-up on the street. With no records of the gun-show sales, and weak laws around private sales, the police have little ability to crack down on these suppliers," Ezra Klein wrote in the Washington Post.
For more, read the Washington Post analysis.
This 2012 study, Reducing Gun Violence in America, offers a wealth of information about the issue. You can read it here (The information about how gun criminals obtained firearms is on Page 139)
States propose to strengthen, loosen gun restrictions
State legislators in recent weeks have proposed a series of gun laws, including wider background checks for gun buyers, strengthened assault weapons bans, and prohibitions on high-capacity ammunition magazines. In some states however, the proposed laws would loosen restrictions.
The proposals come as Congress is preparing to consider federal gun-control legislation.
The following states are proposing stricter laws...
The following states are proposing looser laws...
You can read more about what these states are proposing in this Washington Post report.
You can learn more about the connection between gun laws and gun violence in this report from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Senate proposes four gun laws
The Senate is expected to vote next month on four bills to tackle gun violence.
The bills, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee over the past two weeks, include calls for an assault weapons ban and universal background checks.
These are the proposed laws:
The Democratic-sponsored assault-weapon and background-check bills both passed the judiciary committee 10-8 on a party-line vote.
Majority Leader Harry Reid has dropped the assault-weapons ban from the package of bills to be voted on by the full Senate, saying it doesn't have enough support to avoid a Republican filibuster. It still will be voted on as an amendment.
Senate to introduce assault weapon ban
|2013-Jan-24||By: Rob Dennis|
Sen. Dianne Feinstein has announced she will introduce a bill to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The legislation would prohibit more than 150 specific semiautomatic rifles or handguns with features including pistol grips, grenade launchers or rocket launchers, as well as magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
It would exclude more than 2,250 firearms used for hunting, as well as weapons legally owned before the bill's enactment. But it would require background checks for the sale or transfer of grandfathered weapons and ban the sale or transfer of previously owned large-capacity magazines.
It is an expanded version of the previous federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Unlike that law, passed in 1994, this ban would have no expiration date.
The move comes six weeks after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. killed 20 children and six adults, prompting renewed debate about ways to reduce gun violence.
For more, read the New York Times article.Jump to top of page
Obama announces executive actions after mass shootings
|2013-Jan-16||By: Rob Dennis|
President Barack Obama has issued 23 executive actions aimed at reducing gun violence - including strengthening the background-check system and providing schools with incentives to hire school resource officers.
He also called on Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for civilians, and to require universal background checks.
The White House announcement came a little more than a month after a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. killed 20 children and six adults. It was one of seven mass shootings in 2012.
The recent evolution of assault weapon laws
The Dec 20, 2012 shooting in a Newtown, CT elementary school that ended the lives of several young children and school officials was among the nation's most deadly incidents involving military-style weapons, but it was only one of many. A 1989 shooting at an elementary school in Stockton, CA generated a response in people similar to what is happening today.
The resulting ban on assault rifles was filled with loopholes that rendered it mostly ineffective. And Congress allowed to law to expire in 2004.
This New York Times story provides an informative insight into the evolution of the 10-year assault weapons ban.