Gun law in the United States: Wikis


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U.S. Firearms
Legal Topics
Assault weapons ban
ATF (law enforcement)
Brady Violence Prevention Act
Concealed carry in the U.S.
Federal Firearms License
Firearm case law
Firearm Owners Protection Act
Gun Control Act of 1968
Gun laws in the U.S. — by state
Gun laws in the U.S. — federal
Gun politics in the U.S.
National Firearms Act
Second Amendment
Straw purchase
Sullivan Act (New York)
Violent Crime Control Act

Gun law in the United States is defined by a number of state and federal statutes. In the United States of America, the protection against infringement of the right to keep and bear arms is addressed in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. This right was affirmed in the landmark United States Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. Most federal gun laws were enacted through:

In addition to federal gun laws, most states and some local jurisdictions have additionally imposed their own firearms restrictions. See Gun laws in the United States (by state).



In 1791, The Bill of Rights was ratified. The Bill of Rights includes the Second Amendment, which reads, “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."

Ineligible Persons

The following groups of people are ineligible to own firearms under the Gun Control Act of 1968 [1].

  • Those convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors
  • Fugitives from justice
  • Unlawful users of certain depressant, narcotic, or stimulant drugs
  • Those adjudicated as mental defectives or incompetents or those committed to any mental institution and currently containing a dangerous mental illness.
  • Illegal Aliens
  • Those who have renounced U.S. citizenship
  • Those persons dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces
  • Minors defined as under the age of eighteen for long guns and handguns
  • Persons subject to a restraining order
  • Persons convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (an addition)
  • Persons under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year are ineligible to receive, transport, or ship any firearm or ammunition

Acquiring from dealers

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

  • An individual 21 years of age or older may acquire a handgun from a dealer federally licensed to sell firearms in the individual's state of residence[2].
  • An individual 18 years of age or older may purchase a rifle or shotgun from a federally licensed dealer in any state. However, the applicant may not purchase a pistol gripped long gun that does not have a shoulder stock until he or she is 21 years of age.
  • It shall be unlawful for any licensed importer, licensed manufacturer, or licensed dealer to sell, deliver, or transfer a firearm unless the federal firearms licensee receives notice of approval from a prescribed source approving the transfer.
  • Sale of a firearm by a federally licensed dealer must be documented by a federal form 4473, which identifies and includes other information about the purchaser, and records the make, model, and serial number of the firearm. Sales to an individual of multiple handguns within a five-day period require dealer notification to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Violations of dealer record keeping requirements are punishable by a penalty of up to $1000 and one year's imprisonment.
  • An individual holding a Curio and Relics License (officially a Type 03 Federal Firearms License (FFL); also called a C&R) may directly purchase firearms that are 50 or more years old from anyone AND any firearm officially recognized by the BATFE as a Curio and Relic (C&R).

Sales between individuals

  • Federal law allows the sale of a long gun or a handgun between private parties of the same state as long as the purchaser is 18 years of age. 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.[3] 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.[3] Likewise, antique firearms are exempt from these sections of the law in most states. (Antique firearms are defined as those manufactured pre-1899 by US federal law, or modern replicas thereof that do not use cartridges. State law definitions on antique firearms vary considerably from state to state.)

Use of firearms

  • Provided that all other laws are complied with, an individual may temporarily borrow or rent a firearm for lawful purposes throughout the United States.
  • Some states now allow Permit to Carry a Firearm holders to have more rights regarding protection outside the home. Oklahoma passed a bill that allows permit holders to protect themselves using the same standard at home; "That your life was in danger". This has been tested several times in 2007 where permit holders were not prosecuted as they were defending themselves.
  • Permits to carry a firearm are issued among the States in several categories. They are; Right to carry where no permit is required; Right to carry where a permit is required; May issue right restricted means that they may issue a permit, but tight controls are in place; and Shall issue with some rights restricted. An example from the last category is Florida, which is a Shall issue state but will not honor a "Non Resident" permit. This can get very confusing between the states' reciprocity laws and people need to check the states' laws before going across state lines.[4]


  • Under the United States Gun Control Act of 1968, antique firearms and replicas are largely exempted from the aforementioned restrictions. Antique firearms are defined as: any firearm with a frame or receiver manufactured in or before 1898 regardless of ignition system, or any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system, and any replica of an antique firearm if the replica is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire ammunition, or uses fixed ammunition, which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels or commercial trade, any muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, or muzzle loading pistol, which is designed to use black powder, or a black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition. (Note: Antique firearms exemptions vary considerably under state laws.)

Shipping Firearms

  • Firearms may not be mailed or shipped interstate from one non-FFL to another non-FFL but may be shipped intrastate. Personally owned rifles and shotguns may be mailed or shipped to an FFL in any state for any lawful purpose, including sale, repair, or customizing. An FFL may ship a firearm or replacement firearm of the same kind and type to a person from whom it was received. Under U.S. Postal regulations, handguns may be sent via the Postal Service only from one FFL to another FFL, or between authorized government officials.
  • A person may ship a rifle or shotgun to himself, in care of a person who lives in another state, for purposes of hunting.
  • Firearms delivered to a common carrier for shipment must be accompanied by a written notice to the carrier of the contents of the shipment, if mailing to persons other than licensed importers, licensed manufacturers, licensed dealers, or licensed collectors. Notice to the carrier is not required when shipping to one of the licensed entities aforementioned. Letter from BATFE summarizing shipping responsibilities under the law: Media:BATFE shipping letter.jpg

Transporting Firearms

  • Firearms are prohibited on property in any K-12 school.
  • A provision of federal law serves as a defense to state or local laws which would prohibit the passage of persons with firearms in interstate travel.
  • Notwithstanding any state or local law, a person shall be entitled to transport a firearm from any place where he may lawfully possess and transport such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and transport such firearm if the firearm is unloaded and in a locked container. In vehicles without a locked container, the unloaded firearm shall be in a locked box other than the glove compartment or console.[5]
  • Federal law prohibits the carrying of any firearm, concealed or unconcealed, on or about the person or in carry-on baggage while aboard a commercial aircraft. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has established certain requirements for transporting firearms and ammunition. Firearms must be carried in a locked hard sided case. Ammunition must be declared and can be transported in checked baggage or in the same container as the firearm as long the firearm is unloaded.
  • Any passenger who owns or legally possesses a firearm being transported aboard any common or contract carrier for movement with the passenger in interstate or foreign commerce must deliver the unloaded firearm into custody of the pilot, captain, conductor, or operator of such common or contract carrier for the duration of the trip.


  • As with firearms, shipments of ammunition must be accompanied by a written notice of the shipment's contents. It is unlawful for any licensed importer, dealer, manufacturer or collector to transfer shotgun, rifle, or handgun ammunition to anyone under the age of 18.
  • It is illegal to manufacture or sell armor-piercing handgun ammunition.


  • Persons who engage in the business of buying or selling firearms must be licensed by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of the U.S. Department of Justice. A special class of "licensed collectors" provides for the purchase and sale of firearms designated by the BATFE as "curios and relics." Class III dealers may sell fully-automatic firearms manufactured prior to May 19, 1986, and other federally registered firearms and devices restricted under Title II of the Gun Control Act, to individuals who obtain approval from the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury after payment of a tax and clearance following a criminal background check.
  • Violations of restrictions on Title II firearms and devices are punishable by a penalty of up to $10,000 and 10 years imprisonment.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ 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)"  
  4. ^ Conceal and Carry Laws by State
  5. ^ Title 18 § 926A, Interstate transportation of firearms

See also




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