Federal Gun Control in America: A Historic Guide to Major Federal Gun Control Laws and Acts

For Americans, the crux of gun control laws has been how to disarm dangerous individuals without disarming the public at large. Ever-present in this quest is the question of how the perception of danger should impact guaranteed freedoms protected within the Bill of Rights.

Not only is such a balancing act difficult as-is, but there are also two additional factors that make it even more challenging: America’s federal government is constitutionally bound by the Second Amendment, and politicians notoriously take advantage of tragedies to pass irrational laws when emotions are at their highest. As President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, once famously remarked:

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

This line of thought is not new to American politics. From the emancipation of enslaved Americans and the organized crime wave of the 1930s to the assassinations of prominent leaders in the 1960s and the attempted assassination of President Reagan in the 1980s, fear has proved a powerful catalyst for appeals about gun control.

Below is an overview of the history behind major gun control laws in the federal government, capturing how we’ve gone from the Founding Fathers’ America of the New World to the United States of the 21st century.

Second Amendment in America’s Bill of Rights: Ratified December 15, 1791

Congress added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States specifically “to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers.” The Second Amendment is the foundational cornerstone of every American’s right to bear arms, stating:

“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.”

The right to bear arms was second only to the first – the most vital freedoms of religion, speech, the press, the right to assemble and the right to petition government for redress of grievances. Meanwhile, conflicting views have left government and personal interest groups struggling to reconcile technological advances, isolated but significant violent anomalies and the constitutional mandate protecting the natural right to self defense and this most basic aspect of the Bill of Rights.

First and Second Militia Acts of 1792: Passed May 2 and 8, 1792

The U.S. Congress passed the Militia Acts of 1792 less than a year after the Second Amendment’s ratification. The first act’s purpose was “to provide for the National Defence, by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the United States.” This measure established the need and command structure for a state-based militia. The second act defined conscription parameters for those militias, limiting armed service to “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen” 18 to 45.

Colonial Gun Regulations

Even today, the majority of firearms laws are state-based and vary considerably. While CaliforniaConnecticut and New Jersey have the most restrictive laws, ArizonaVermont and Kentucky have some of the least stringent. For more than a century, the young United States relied primarily on “state” laws:

  • The earliest came from Virginia, the result of fear of attack by Native Americans. The 1619 law imposed a three-shilling fine on able-bodied men who failed to come armed to church on the Sabbath.
  • By 1640, slave codes in Virginia prohibited all “free Mulattos and Negroes” from bearing arms. In 1712, South Carolina enacted a similar law.
  • During this time in Virginia, gun laws for Native Americans were similar to those for white men – as they were not barred from possessing guns (unless they were gathering food on land held by white men). There were, however, prohibitions against providing “Indians” with weapons and ammunition. Native Americans could own weapons, but there were strict regulations on how they could obtain them.
  • Throughout the Antebellum South, LouisianaFloridaMarylandGeorgiaNorth CarolinaMississippi and even Delaware all passed multiple measures denying guns to people of color, requiring court-issued permits, and allowing search and seizure of weapons as well as punishment without trial.

Continue reading Federal Gun Control in America: A Historic Guide to Major Federal Gun Control Laws and Acts at Ammo.com.

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Anti-Liberty Pro-Gunners

I’m a member of a “gun owners’ group” on Facebook. I rarely post anything there because the majority of the other members are statist clowns.

Generally, they embrace Right-Statist policies, no matter how anti-liberty those policies are.

Most hypocritically, they support police, even in the comments they make while posting links to stories about cops murdering innocent people. They seem to really believe cops would never enforce anti-gun “laws” even while seeing them enforcing those types of “laws” everywhere every day. It’s insane!

When I point this out I get attacked.

Some legislation enforcement goon was puffing out his chest (in comment form), saying he would never participate in gun confiscation, but when I asked about other gang activities I suspect he participates in (prohibition, rules against full-auto weapons, seat belt enforcement, “speeding” tickets, etc.), people lost their minds. I was the bad guy.

They get all dreamy-eyed when a sheriff poses and says no gun confiscation (ala Bob’O O’Rourke) will be allowed to happen in this state (New Mexico). No recognition of the illegal “laws” those same sheriffs help enforce every single day– including gun confiscations.

I’m surprised they haven’t kicked me out of the group yet– but, like I say, I rarely comment on anything, because of what invariably happens when I do.

Right-Statists are anti-gun, just like Left-Statists are. They just use different excuses and go after guns from a different angle. If you’re a statist, you are anti-liberty at your core.

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Statism is The Strongest Witness Against Itself

Not only does it show the flaw in statists’ beliefs when statists worry about who gets to v*te, but statism is full of contradictions that show the flaws in statism.

Property rights are the biggest, most obvious strike against any chance of logic in statism.

If you believe I should be forced– at gunpoint– to finance a gang you claim is needed to fight theft, you’ve made a fool of yourself.

If you believe it’s necessary to violate private property rights in order to protect property rights– through borders, “taxes”, etc., then you’ve testified against yourself.

But there are more problems.

If you believe you need a State/government to “defend freedom” by violating individual liberty, you’re not so brilliant. And if you buy A/Ru/dolph Giuliani’s steaming load claiming “freedom is about authority” then you might as well just get on the next shrimp boat to North Korea.

If you buy into the statist lie that drugs can destroy your life, so we need to impose prohibition so we have an excuse to kick your door down in the middle of the night, and murder your family and– if you survive– throw you in a cage, make it so you can’t get a job, and destroy your life, then you’ve admitted that you’re an idiot.

Statism is incompatible with ethics; statism is incompatible with life, liberty, and property; statism is incompatible with humanity. You can tell this just by looking at the claims statism makes and where it leads.

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Bad Choices and Shifting the Blame

I don’t blame manufacturers or retailers for the misuse of their (non-faulty) products. Not even with products known to be really dangerous if used according to their purpose.

When someone buys something dangerous and makes the choice to misuse it, that’s where the blame lies.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking guns, opioids, cars, or anything else.

If you misuse something it’s YOUR fault if you die from it and YOUR fault if you harm others. You are not the victim. I hold YOU accountable. And, if the shoe is on the other foot, as it has been a few times, I accept my responsibility.

Yes, I get it. Where drugs are concerned, people foolishly abuse drugs manufactured by people who just want to make money from addicts. It’s easy to say someone shouldn’t make something that people can get addicted to. Even though people can apparently get addicted to anything. They don’t force anyone to use their products (unlike government). They are simply meeting a want, even though we might dislike that want.

So, being addicted doesn’t change anything. To have become addicted, you still had to make the choice to use something known to be dangerously addictive at least once. Unless you are one of the vanishingly rare cases where someone drugged you without your knowledge and you became addicted, you chose the path. I feel bad for addicts, but that’s no reason to attack the manufacturers, treat them as criminals, and ignore the voluntary choice the future addict made.

Nor is there any legitimate reason to treat addicts as criminals instead of as people who may need medical help. Prohibition is still evil.

The choice to misuse a product is still a choice, and it’s not helpful to coddle those making these choices or to shift the blame to someone else.

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Scott Adams is Still Wrong on Guns

The vilest anti-liberty bigots are those who pretend to be pro-liberty while misrepresenting liberty (or not even understanding what the word means). Anti-gun bigots who claim to be “pro-gun” are probably the worst subset of anti-liberty bigot.

Scott Adams is a case in point. He’s been advocating anti-gun “laws” a lot recently, seasoning his remarks with the phrase “I’m pro-gun“. It shows how deep his misunderstanding of the topic goes that he believes he’s making sense.

The following is a point-by-point analysis of a recent podcast where he was pretending to be pro-gun while promoting anti-gun bigotry and government-supremacy. He’s always blocking people for saying “You’re wrong” without providing reasons. Since he likes reasons so much, here are a bunch of them.

“The government should make the decisions about gun policy… The government and the people should decide what our gun laws are.”

Nope. That option has been taken off the table by the Second Amendment. And “our” gun laws? I’ve decided what mine are. No one else has any say. Collectivism is ugly.

“But we get to change the Constitution, too.”

Not without abolishing the United States of America. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were a package deal which created the feral, ummm, federal government, and without which it has no existence. Change one word of the Bill of Rights (which, being amendments, over-ride the body of the Constitution where applicable) and the deal is off. I’m actually OK with that. Are you?

“I did not say ‘take away your guns’.”

Only because you can’t be that honest. You’ve parroted the dishonest claim of almost every anti-gun bigot, that “no one is talking about taking away guns“. Maybe you aren’t proposing door-to-door gun confiscations, but if you believe government has the power to ignore the natural human right to own and to carry weapons, and the Second Amendment’s prohibition on “laws” concerning guns, then you’re advocating allowing “laws” to be written which could (and have) result in actual law enforcers taking away people’s guns, and murdering them if they resist.

“I’m very pro-gun (…) but…”

That’s what they all say. And maybe you believe it. But without a clear understanding of the issue you say things that make you look foolish and dishonest. That “but” leaves you a lot of wiggle room but completely invalidates your first statement there.

“If the citizens of the United States, collectively, with their government, decided to make some gun laws, that I personally, Scott, do not think are the greatest, I’d still be inclined to go along with it, because the system produced that output. And I would trust the system.”

As long as a system isn’t harming people I’ll trust it. Provisionally. But as soon as it starts violating people, I’m out. The slave trade was a system. No one should have trusted it because it violated natural human rights. “Gun control” is a system which violates people’s rights. In fact, government is a rights-violating system. None for me, thanks. I prefer my own system which protects everyone’s equal and identical rights.

“Some of you are saying ‘My Constitution gives me my Second Amendment rights, and the NRA is helping me defend them.’”

Anyone who believes their rights come from the Constitution/Second Amendment or any document is uninformed. The Bill of Rights was written to place natural human rights– including the right to own and to carry weapons– off-limits to government meddling. Even the NRA seems weak on their understanding of this point. That’s why real gun rights (human rights) advocates call the NRA “surrender monkeys”.

As I recently posted elsewhere in response to a similar claim: You seem to have been misinformed about what the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does. It doesn’t give anyone the right to own and to carry weapons; it makes it a crime for government to interfere in this natural human right in the slightest way. “Gun control” is a SERIOUS crime.

The right existed before the Constitution was written— before the first government was a twinkle in the eye of a lazy thief, even— and it will still exist unchanged long after the last government is forgotten in the mists of Deep Time. No law or constitution can alter that right in the smallest degree.

“You love the Constitution. So do I.”

I don’t. And neither do you. If you did you would try to understand its purpose better; particularly the Bill of Rights– which is what you’re discussing here. The ONLY thing the Bill of Rights was written to do was to limit what government could “legally” do. If you miss that point your claim to love the Constitution is patently ridiculous. It’s like if I said I love dogs, but then talk about how beautiful and soft their feathers are.

“Do you know what else is in the Constitution? Well there’s something about a representative government and presidents and Congress and all that.”

Yep. And that makes placing natural human rights out of their reach that much more important. Because you never know what those people might decide to do. Or what the majority of v*ters might decide to do. Placing natural human rights outside the business of government is necessary if you’re going to allow government to exist.

“It gives the control of our decision making to our elected representatives.”

Not all of it. Some things were wisely taken off the table (by the Bill of Rights) before the game began. Including guns.

(About the NRA) “If it crosses that line into taking the job that the Constitution gives to the government…”

Again, the government can’t have the “job” to make up “laws” about guns. That is one of the things government is specifically and explicitly not permitted to do.

“The first thing I would note is that it’s already infringed.”

Agreed. That means all those various infringements are illegitimate and need to go away. It doesn’t justify more infringements. You couldn’t have justified expanding the slave trade with the observation that there was already a slave trade. The slave trade needed to be abolished. Gun “laws” need to be abolished… or ignored into irrelevance.

“Can you own a tank; a flamethrower?”

Ignorance? Yes, you can.

About “Second Amendment rights” [sic]: “98% of it’s gone and you didn’t even notice.”

Rights can’t “go away”. That the government– or other bad guys– violate rights doesn’t make them go away. It just violates them. Understand the difference.

And, I notice the violations. So do other people. Just because you don’t notice doesn’t mean others are that complacent and ignorant.

“Do you think that the Second Amendment, when it says ‘arms’, was just trying to limit it to muskets? I mean, that’s all they could imagine at the time…”

No. The Second Amendment was saying “You shall not pass!” with regard to making up “laws” to violate the natural human right to own and to carry weapons.

And they could “imagine” more than muskets because more than muskets already existed. Some of the authors of the Constitution were inventors. Does Scott really believe they couldn’t have imagined anything other than what already existed at the time? Of course, they could. That’s what inventors do. They knew how guns had evolved from massive unwieldy things requiring more than one person to set up and use to tools easily owned, carried, and accurately fired by one average individual. They were perfectly aware of how gun development could progress from its current state– they were already witnessing it.

And it doesn’t matter. They placed guns on a high shelf, out of reach of government “laws”.

“I see all the gun rights people bristling, but so far I haven’t said anything you disagree with.”

Seriously? See all the above if you actually believe you haven’t said anything an informed gun rights person would disagree with so far.

And, I didn’t bristle. I took it upon myself to educate and correct.

“… the key parts are ‘militia’ and ‘necessary to the security of a free state’… “

The militia is EVERYONE capable of using a weapon in defense– this was made clear by those who wrote and supported the Second Amendment. Using their weapons against whoever needed to be defended against. You display gross historical ignorance here.

Then you go off on a screed about “giving you the right to own guns...”, missing the purpose and intent of the Bill of Rights yet again. Government-supremacists seem to love this train of thought, which I derailed above.

Now, I happen to understand what a “state” is, so I also understand “free state” is internally contradictory. I’ll forgive you for your ignorance on this one.

“… a created right; a manufactured right…”

You can’t create or manufacture rights. Every human who has ever existed has/had equal and identical rights. Rights don’t come from governments. Governments can either respect rights or violate them. Those are the only two options. That governments– states– always choose to violate rights to some degree says nothing about the nature of rights and everything you need to know about the nature of government.

“Even the experts disagree about what the Constitution said or meant or how it should be interpreted.”

Only willfully. If you go back and read the related writings and discussions between those who were writing it, there is no confusion. “Smart people” often find ways to avoid understanding things which would invalidate what they want. That’s the most common thing in the world. It doesn’t give weight to your anti-gun position.

“My take is the government can do whatever it wants, with guns, as long as it makes sense. As long as the people are with it.”

It probably can. But it would be wrong and the US government would be immediately illegitimized by passing even one gun “law”. Oops. I guess that bridge has already been crossed and burned. But, again, this is the unethical government-supremacist position.

And “makes sense” to who? Everything makes sense to someone. Theft makes sense to people who want to justify stealing. Rape makes sense to rapists. Serial murderers always believe their acts somehow make sense. Violating your rights can’t make sense to me. No matter my feelings, or my wishes. If I feel your rights “need” to be violated on my behalf, then I need to man up and defend myself– by exercising my rights– from you. Begging government to do that on my behalf is a loser move.

“If 99% of the people said ‘Hey, government, take our guns away’…”

So, mob rule, then. The belief that rights hinge on the opinions of the majority. The wishes of all the people but one can’t excuse violating the rights of the one. Not if you call that violation “slavery” or if you call it “gun control”. If someone doesn’t want a gun in their house there is nothing to prevent them from getting rid of it. I’m completely in favor of allowing them to do so. If, however, they don’t want guns in their own home this gives them no right to force everyone else to get rid of their own guns, or else. Not by “law” or anything else.

This is the same loserthink behind rich people who say “Raise my taxes– I don’t mind. I want to support government more.” If they want to give the government more of their money, they can. No new “law” is necessary. Just do it. To wait until a “law” is imposed forcing others to do the same is evil.

“…a vague statement in the Constitution hundreds of years ago…”

It’s only vague if you try really hard to not understand it. “Shall not be infringed” can’t be more clear.

“We can do what we want as long as there’s a system we all respect.”

Too bad for you, then. Or, do you not really mean “all”, but just all government-supremacists and anti-liberty bigots? Because, as I’ve already pointed out, I don’t respect systems which violate natural human rights.

“…’it’s in the Constitution!’ True, but does it matter?”

Only if you want to keep your government. If not, that’s OK with me. I don’t need your government and don’t feel like supporting it. I can’t afford it and don’t want or need it. So I’m not going to argue with you on that one. That’s just a case of you arguing against yourself.

“To all of you who thought you were disagreeing with me, and were wrong, I say: your opinion I care about… If you disagree with me on guns, I care about your opinion. I might disagree, but I want to hear it… You and I are on the same page.”

OK. I’ll send this blog post to you, then. I hope other people also forward it to you (@ScottAdamsSays) any time you talk about guns.

But, no, we are not on the same page. Not even close.

I’ll close with one final admission on your part:

“I know one topic I don’t understand: any topic on gun control”

Yeah, that much is painfully obvious.

So, no Scott, I’m not interested in any system which makes it easier to violate the natural human rights of my fellow humans (or myself) and therefore makes it more likely those rights violations will occur. Just not interested at all. When you’re right, you’re right. But when you’re wrong, you’re probably advocating government-supremacy.

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Politics versus Policy in the New “Public Charge” Rules

On August 12, the Trump administration announced new rules for immigrants seeking permanent residence status (through issuance of a “green card”)  in the United States. Those rules apply a longstanding prohibition on immigrants likely to become “public charges” (that is, dependent on government benefits) to  applicants who have received certain of those government benefits — among them Medicaid, SNAP (“food stamps”), and housing assistance — for more than 12 months.

The politics of the move are obvious: Trump is throwing more red meat to his anti-immigration “base.” The new rules are of a piece with his border wall project and high-profile ICE raids on workplaces where undocumented immigrants are employed. They’re not intended to solve a problem. They’re intended to keep his voters enthused as the 2020 election cycle heats up.

As actual policy, who can really complain? Well, some people can and will. But if the US government is going to regulate immigration at all (I don’t believe that it should, and the Constitution says it can’t), “pay your own way or go away” doesn’t sound like an unreasonable rule.

Interestingly, though, the policy conflicts with the politics. It discourages the “legal” immigration most Trump voters claim to be fine with, and encourages the “illegal” immigration he campaigned on a promise of “fixing.”

Suppose you are a would-be immigrant to the United States.

You can “get in line,” fill out forms, show up for meetings, submit to questioning, bust your hump meeting various requirements, and still find yourself turned away (or sent back) for any number of reasons.

Or you can walk across the border in the middle of the night and go to work, with a much lower chance of being found out, and sent back, than if you interacted with US immigration authorities.

Adding to the burden of the first approach doesn’t mean fewer immigrants. It just means that more immigrants will take the second approach.

Is that the outcome you signed up for, Trump voters?

Anti-immigration agitators fondly quote economist Milton Friedman: “[I]t is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare. And you cannot have both.” The rule change is a sop to that sentiment. But it leaves out another thing Friedman said about what happens when we try to have both:

“Mexican immigration, over the border, is a good thing. It’s a good thing for the illegal immigrants. It’s a good thing for the United States. It’s a good thing for the citizens of the country. But, it’s only good so long as it’s illegal.”

If Americans want fewer “public charges,” the solution isn’t to single out immigrants for exclusion from government welfare benefits. It’s to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce and toughen  eligibility requirements for, those welfare benefits. For everyone, not just for people who happen to  hail from the “wrong” side of an imaginary line on the ground.

Two evils — immigration authoritarianism and welfare statism — do not add up to one good. We should ditch both.

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