Gun law in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search
See also: Hunting license
A notice stating that the Turman Halfway House in Austin, Texas prohibits concealed handguns

Gun law in the United States is defined by a number of state and federal statutes. In the United States the protection against infringement of the right to keep and bear arms is addressed in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. While there have been vigorous debates on the nature of this right, there has been a lack of clear federal court rulings defining this right until recently. The individual right to bear arms for self-defense was affirmed in the landmark United States Supreme Court cases District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008, which overturned a handgun ban in the Federal District of Columbia, and McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010, which incorporated the individual right to the states.

Federal gun laws are enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).[1] Most federal gun laws were enacted through:[2][3]

In addition to federal gun laws, all U.S. states and some local jurisdictions have imposed their own firearms restrictions.

General provisions[edit]

Use of firearms[edit]

Provided that all other laws are complied with, an individual may temporarily borrow or rent a firearm for lawful purposes throughout the United States.

Under United States federal law, the use of a firearm in a violent or drug trafficking crime is punishable by a mandatory prison sentence of up to 20 years. The minimum is one month. A second conviction, if the firearm is an automatic weapon or is equipped with a suppressor, brings life imprisonment without release.

Carrying firearms (federal law)[edit]

There is no federal law generally prohibiting the carrying of firearms by citizens for protection or other lawful purposes, with limited exception in the Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. The GFSZA does not apply to citizens licensed to possess firearms. Thus, citizens with permits to carry concealed or openly are free to lawfully do so within a school zone, so long as the laws in their state do not prohibit it. Other statutes concerning Federal property such as military installations also address the carry of firearms. By tradition and as defined in the Constitution, laws describing the bearing of arms are exclusively the business of state legislatures.
See: Gun laws in the United States (by state)

The carry of firearms for protection and other lawful purposes is legal in all 50 states, either under license or as a matter of course. Washington, D.C. is the only region that both prohibits carry by statute, and doesn't issue a license exempting one from the statute.

Open carrying of firearms without any licensing requirement is legal in thirty-one states, including: Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; Colorado; Delaware; Idaho; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Michigan; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Mexico; North Carolina; Ohio; Oregon; Pennsylvania; South Dakota; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin and Wyoming. States urge caution while engaging in open carry to not cause a public disturbance, most under penalty of law.
Some of these states' statutes prohibit carry in vehicles without a license; concealment without a license; concealment generally; or other restrictions. It is strongly advised to be totally familiar with all aspects of gun law whether they affect you or not to be fully aware.
See: Open carry in the United States and Concealed Carry in the United States

Prohibited persons[edit]

The following list of prohibited persons[4] are ineligible to own or use firearms under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.[5]

In addition, no Federal Firearms License holder may sell or deliver firearms or ammunition to minors, defined as under the age of eighteen for long guns and the age of twenty-one for handguns.[6]


Acquiring from dealers[edit]

Provided that federal law and the laws of both the dealer's and purchaser's states and localities are complied with:

Sales between individuals[edit]

For transactions that do not involve federal firearms licensees, such as private transactions, federal law is less strict when it comes to minimum age.

In a private transaction, federal law prohibits the transfer or the sale of a handgun or ammunition, for use only in handguns, to individuals under 18 years of age. Although, there are certain exceptions in federal law, that if met, would allow an individual to transfer a handgun or ammunition, for use only in handguns, to someone under 18 years of age.

There is no federal law concerning minimum age for the transfer or sale of a firearm that is not defined as a handgun, such as rifles, semiautomatic rifles, short-barreled rifles, shotguns, short-barreled shotgun, etc., for transactions that don't involve federal firearms licensees.[4]

An individual who does not possess a federal firearms license may not sell a modern firearm to a resident of another state without first transferring the firearm to a dealer in the purchaser's state.[9] Firearms received by bequest or intestate succession are exempt from those sections of the law which forbid the transfer, sale, delivery or transportation of firearms into a state other than the transferor's state of residence.[9] Likewise, antique firearms are exempt from these sections of the law in most states. (Antique firearms are defined as those manufactured pre-1899 by U.S. federal law, or modern replicas thereof that do not use cartridges. State law definitions on antique firearms vary considerably from state to state.)

Movement and transport[edit]

Shipping firearms[edit]

Transporting firearms[edit]



Undetectable guns[edit]

The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 made it "unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm" that is not detectable by a walk-through metal detector or "of which any major component, when subjected to inspection by x-ray machines commonly used at airports, does not generate an image that accurately depicts the shape of the component."[16] It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on November 10, 1988.[17] The law included a ten year sunset clause, which has since been renewed on the following occasions:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ As status and responsibilities of the agency have changed over the years, it has used the acronyms ATF, BATF, BATFE and currently ATF.
  2. ^ "Federal Gun Control Legislation - Timeline". Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  3. ^ "Crime Control: The Federal Response". Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  4. ^ a b "ATF Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  5. ^ "18 USC § 922 - Unlawful acts | Title 18 - Crimes and Criminal Procedure | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute". Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  6. ^ "18 USC § 922 - Unlawful acts | Title 18 - Crimes and Criminal Procedure | U.S. Code | LII / Legal Information Institute". Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ a b Goode, E. and Stolberg, S.G. Legal Curbs Said to Hamper A.T.F. in Gun Inquiries. New York Times, December 25, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Gutmacher, Esq., Jon H. (2006). "Qualifications for Purchasing or Possession of Firearms (Chapter 2)". Florida Firearms Law, Use & Ownership. Warlord Publishing. pp. 25–26. Federal law strictly prohibits the transfer or receipt of any firearm to a non-resident by a non-licensee... Rifles and shotguns are treated somewhat differently from handguns, and federal law does not prevent a qualified citizen who resides in another state from purchasing a rifle or shotgun in a face-to-face transaction with a federally licensed firearms dealer outside his state if: the purchase would be legal in both states, and if the regulatory requirements of both states are complied with. 18 USC 922 (b)(3) 
  10. ^ "Possession of a dangerous weapon, firearm, or sawed-off shotgun on or about school premises". Utah Legal Code. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  11. ^ "Title 18 § 926A, Interstate transportation of firearms". Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  12. ^ Becker, Bernie (September 16, 2009). "Senate Votes to O.K. Checked Guns on Amtrak", The New York Times
  13. ^ Bizjak, Tony (30 November 2010). "Amtrak to let passengers bring guns on most trains". Sacramento Bee. 
  14. ^ Schone, Mark (December 9, 2009). "Congress: Passengers Can Bring Guns on Amtrak Trains", ABC News.
  15. ^ Wicker, Roger (December 9, 2009). "Wicker Hails Amtrak Secure Firearm Transport Provision as Important Second Amendment Victory", Roger Wicker's U.S. Senate web site
  16. ^ Congressional Research Service. "Summary of Public Law 100-649". Library of Congress. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  17. ^ "H.R. 4445 - Major Congressional Actions". Library of Congress. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  18. ^ Public Law 105-277, Oct. 21, 1988, Government Printing Office. Retrieved August 5, 2014.
  19. ^ "H.R. 3348 (108th): To reauthorize the ban on undetectable firearms", Retrieved August 5, 2014.
  20. ^ "House votes to renew ban on plastic firearms". 3 December 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  21. ^ "H.R. 3626 - All Actions". United States Congress. Retrieved 5 December 2013.