With gun control at its highest in the United States its hard to imagine a time when just about any adult in the country was able to purchase handguns, rifles, shotguns, and ammunition over the counter and even through the mail without running any type background check. This began in 1791 with the second amendment 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 government not only allowed but also, encouraged the right to keep and bare arms. This remained the same until about 75 years later in 1865 when several southern states adopt “black codes” which, among other things, forbid black persons from possessing firearms. The national rifle association (NRA) was organized in 1871 with a primary goal of improving civilian’s marksmanship in preparation of war and increasing the number of safe and educated gun users.
In 1927 the federal government steps in for the first time when Congress passes a law banning the mailing of concealable weapons. Up till this point a white adult was still able to purchase firearms including fully automatic weapons with absolutely no regulation. This changes in 1934 when the National Firearms Act is passed requiring the regulation of only fully automatic firearms like sub-machine guns. It wasn’t until the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 that the first limitations were placed on selling ordinary firearms. Anyone selling guns were now required to obtain a Federal Firearms License and to maintain records of the names and addresses of anyone who purchased firearms. In addition this act also prohibited the sale of any gun to a person convicted of violent felony.
After Robert Kennedy was assassinated, Congress passed the Gun Control Act of 1968. The purpose of the act was to keep firearms out of the hands of people who were not legally entitled to possess them because of criminal background, age, mental incompetence, and use of illegal drugs.
The District of Columbia enacts an anti-handgun law in 1977 that also requires registration for all rifles and shotguns within the district. The Crime Control Act of 1990 bans the manufacturing and importing of semiautomatic assault weapons in the U.S. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement act passed in 1994 and banned the manufacture, use, possession and import of 19 types of assault weapons including AK-47’s and Uzi’s. This law expired in 2004.
The same year the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act is passed which put a five-day waiting period on the purchase of a handgun and required the local law enforcement to conduct background checks on the buyer. Just three years later this required background check was found unconstitutional. In November of the next year permanent provisions of the Brady act went into effect and gun dealers were required to check all gun buyers through the National Instant Criminal Background Check.
In may of 1999, Vice President Gore casts the deciding vote on a bill which requires all newly manufactured handguns to require trigger locks, which also increased the waiting period and background checks to sales of firearms at gun shows.
In January of 2011, a gunman killed six people and wounded 14, one of which was a congresswoman in Tucson, Arizona. Recent bills were being drafted to step up background checks, create no-gun zones around members of Congress, and ban large-volume magazines, which allowed the gunman in Tucson to fire off so many rounds so quickly. It would be a safe bet that the future polls will have the public’s support for stricter gun control laws.