During Congressional testimony in 1965, the statistic that there were 20,000 gun control laws in the United States was cited. In the years since, many people have disputed that figure as an inflated number, contending that there are far fewer. One expert stated recently that he counts only 207 federal gun control laws. While the debate continues over the exact number, the following are the main federal gun control laws.
1. National Firearms Act: This law was passed during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term. This legislation places strict regulations on the sale and manufacture of automatic weapons, short-barrelled shotguns, weapons concealed as canes or other common items, and silencers. It also placed a $200 tax on manufacturers and buyers of these class of weapons. This law effectively removed machine guns from the general public since their ownership requires detailed registration and approval from the federal government.
2. Federal Firearms Act: This 1938 law controls the sale of firearms by requiring sellers to have a Federal Firearms License issued by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. It also requires sellers to record the names and addresses of every buyer, and it outlaws the sale of firearms to people convicted of certain crimes. Though this law was repealed by the Gun Control Act of 1968, much of it was included in the 1968 legislation.
3. Gun Control Act: The main change caused by this 1968 law was the outlawing of mail-order sales of rifles and shotguns. It also increased record keeping requirements and the categories of people prohibited from buying a gun, most notably those deemed mentally incompetent and drug users.
4. Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act: This 1986 outlawed armor-piercing ammunition that is able to shoot through protective Kevlar vests.
5. Firearms Owners’ Protection Act: While this legislation did lift some restrictions on sale and ownership of firearms, it also stiffened punishment for certain crimes when a firearm is involved.
6. Crime Control Act: Passed in 1990, this law made it illegal to possess a gun in an established “school zone”.
7. Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act: This 1994 law required the FBI to develop an instant background check system to be used in all gun sales. The National Instant Background Check System became active in 1998 and allows firearm sellers to conduct a background check over the phone or electronically at the time of the sale.
8. Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act: Also enacted in 1994, this law banned those firearms classified as “assault weapons”—semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines. It also outlawed juveniles from possessing or selling handguns.