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5 Milestones in Gun Control History

Society & Culture  (tags: activists, americans, children, corruption, crime, culture, death, dishonesty, education, ethics, family, freedoms, government, law, media, police, politics, rights, sadness, society, safety, violence )

- 1914 days ago -
Is gun control common-sense regulation or a tyrannical overstep of government bounds? It's a question that rages today in the wake of mass shootings at places like Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.

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Kit B (276)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 9:48 am
(Photo Credit: Creative Commons | Joshuashearn) Assortment of Hand guns.

Is gun control common-sense regulation or a tyrannical overstep of government bounds? It's a question that rages today in the wake of mass shootings at places like Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. But it's not a new question, as a glance at American history will prove.

The battle centers over the wording of the Second Amendment to the Constitution — "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" — and what it might mean in a modern world with deadlier weapons than those borne by the Founding Fathers. Read on for a brief history of how America's gun laws have evolved.

1. First ban

Prior to the 1920s, there was little talk of gun control except at a state level, and many of those laws were aimed at keeping weapons out of the hands of African-Americans in southern states rather than regulating firearms more generally. In 1927, though, Congress reacted to the mob violence of Prohibition with the first federal gun restriction ever. The law banned the mail-order sale of handguns or any other concealable firearm. [7 Great Congressional Dramas]

Likewise, it was mobsters (and their predilection for "Tommy Gun" or Thompson submachine gun) who inspired Congress' second act of gun control, the National Firearms Act of 1934. This act taxed firearms under 18 inches (46 centimeters) in length and required registration of those same guns — a restriction later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1968, because it might require gun owners to self-incriminate if they attempted to register a weapon illegal in their home state, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The registration requirement was removed from later versions of the law.

2. Gun control goes big …

Violence again served as an impetus for legislation in the 1960s, when the gun assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., prompted Congress to pass the Gun Control Act of 1968.

The Act restricted the sale of firearms to certain groups, such as convicted criminals, anyone ever committed to a mental institution and anyone ever convicted of domestic violence. It also required licensing of firearms dealers, amid other interstate commerce restrictions.

At the signing of the bill, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson said, "Today we begin to disarm the criminal and the careless and the insane. All of our people who are deeply concerned in this country about law and order should hail this day."

However, Johnson also lamented that the bill did not include a national system of registration and licensing for firearms.

"If guns are to be kept out of the hands of the criminal, out of the hands of the insane, and out of the hands of the irresponsible, then we just must have licensing," he said. "If the criminal with a gun is to be tracked down quickly, then we must have registration in this country."

3. … But faces backlash

Not everyone agreed with Johnson. The 1968 Gun Control Act broadened the powers of the ATF and raised the ire of the the National Rifle Association (NRA), which in the 1970s became more hard-line about gun rights. In 1979, the NRA's new lobbying branch, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, drafted legislation to loosen the 1968 law, according to the group's website. On May 19, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed an amended version of this first draft into law.

The Firearm Owners' Protection Act rolled back many of the penalties in the 1968 law and banned any federal agency from keeping a registry of guns and their owners. [Guns in the U.S. (Infographic)]

4. James Brady and background checks

As in 1968, it was an assassination attempt that sparked the next round of gun control. In 1981, John Hinckley, Jr., attempted to assassinate President Reagan. He failed to kill the president, but did leave press secretary James Brady permanently paralyzed on the left side of his body.

Brady's experience as a gunshot victim turned him and his wife Sarah Brady into crusaders for gun control. In part because of their efforts, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was made law in 1993, creating a national background check system designed to prevent convicted felons and other potentially violent individuals from buying handguns.

5. Newtown and the future of guns

Support for gun control is down since the 1990s among Americans. In 1993, 57 percent of people surveyed by the Pew Research Center said that controlling gun ownership was more important than protecting gun rights. In 2012, that number had dropped to 47 percent. At the same time, the number of people prioritizing gun rights over gun control rose from 34 percent to 46 percent.

The numbers have not budged much in response to high-profile mass killings. For example, the deaths of 12 people in a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in July did not change opinions on gun control, Pew found.

The mass shooting of 20 elementary school children and six teachers in Newtown, Conn., may have been different. Immediately after Newtown, the public shifted slightly in support of more gun control, Pew found, with 51 percent prioritizing gun control over gun rights as of Jan. 13. That's a small move, but more than any other mass killing in recent years has engendered.

The Newtown shootings also motivated political action, with Vice President Joe Biden heading up a task force that has presented gun control proposals to President Barack Obama. What will become of these proposals in a starkly divided Congress, however, remains unknown.

By: Stephanie Pappas | Live Science |

Arielle S (313)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 11:32 am
I had the great joy of watching Mr. La Pierre's speech last night ("Mr" implying a respect I most definitely don't have for the man). He insisted this gun control movement is all about the government either "taking or taxing" guns - a rabble rousing, inciting to riot kind of speech that touched not a whit on public safety, children, or sanity.
Until these people have a personal involvement in gun violence, these dogs will never let go of this bone. It's very sad.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 11:48 am

I wonder at times if La Pierre and Roger Alies are not twins of the mind. Just get the rhetoric out there and rouse the rabble. Truth has no place in their cause for grinding out the money.

Yvonne White (229)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 1:25 pm
It has always been a Big Lie that Democrats will take your guns - even when they Should, legal guns aren't removed.
National Background checks Have to be implemented & Used!
My sister saw an interview with some of the Sandy Hook parents and one said there was more paperwork & background checks involved in adopting a kitten than there were for buying a gun. Adopting a kitten involved asking neighbors about the family's "good character", temperment, etc. Which seemed a bit much for a stray cat, but still admirable that the pet rescue Cared Enough - which makes lazy gun "control" more glaringly UNcaring about the public safety!

Kit B (276)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 1:29 pm

Two key words - Public safety.

Rose Becke (141)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 2:14 pm
well said again Kit :public safety

Jim P (3257)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 3:06 pm
Heavy taxes for people who own any kind of firearms, yearly and renewable licenses to keep them.
Registration as a requirement. Insurance policies in place with hefty premiums.

Just throwing out some ideas. lol...

One I have mentioned before: The only people allowed to carry semi/fully automatic weapons are the
military and police. Anyone caught with semi/fully automatic weapons, outside of military & police
receives an automatic 5 years in prison.

Thanks for the history. And, yes, Public Safety.

Ty, Kit.

pam w (139)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 5:10 pm
Thanks, Kit!

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 5:40 pm
Beyond my understanding why this should even be a question let alone a raging one when the answer is so clear and simply lies in the word "control".
I can tell you one thing, were the NRA a German org. they would be under federal intelligence observation!

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 7:27 pm
I can tell you what a "tyrannical overstep" is- read what Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) has to say (on thinkprogress, by Scott Keyes).Rep. Jason Lankford (R-OK)has other weird suggestions as well:House Republican Leader Blames Gun Violence On 'Welfare Moms'.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 11:38 pm
Thanks Kit.

Lynn Squance (235)
Wednesday January 23, 2013, 11:47 pm
Gun control
registration of all guns;
training in the use and maintainence;
written and practical examinations;
licensing and strict background checks;
liability insurance;
health requirements (including mental health);
periodic review/renewal of license.

For me, these are reasonable and needed. They are the same for a drivers' license so what is the problem? Why wait until there is yet another mass shooting or assassination attempt?

Robert O (12)
Thursday January 24, 2013, 12:04 am
Thanks Kit.

Faye S (23)
Thursday January 24, 2013, 12:24 am
Good posting - I'm not a gun owner but I would have thought licensing and background checks would be sensible to say the very least.

Bruno Moreira (61)
Thursday January 24, 2013, 7:13 am

Yvonne White (229)
Thursday January 24, 2013, 1:38 pm
Care2 has limited my access to those dangerous Green Stars again!;) If green stars were guns we'd all be controlled!;)

Past Member (0)
Thursday January 24, 2013, 6:13 pm

JL A (281)
Thursday January 24, 2013, 6:23 pm
Or four words: public health and safety

. (0)
Thursday January 24, 2013, 8:11 pm
Have to agree with Lynn, those all make sense to me. And no one has ever talked about taking away anyone's guns from their homes. Some people just get a bit too excitable.

I just wish we could all get this excited about other issues like feeding the poor, ending genocide, etc, etc.

Lois Jordan (63)
Friday January 25, 2013, 2:55 pm
Just thinking about all those CONservatives who point fingers and snidely quip about how "emotional" liberals are. After watching some of the comments from rabid gun owners reiterating Heston's remark about removing guns "from their cold, dead fingers".....their emotions run so high I believe they are definitely "unbalanced." We get mad and protest with signs, they get mad.....and, watch out!

Süheyla C (234)
Friday January 25, 2013, 3:02 pm
Thanks Kit
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