The right to bear arms is deeply embedded into the Constitution of the United States, and as such, it has been the topic for fiery debates for decades now. Considering the fact that the entire country follows this essential human right, they also have unique, specific laws in each state. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve also noticed that gun violence is a growing issue in the US, which is why many believe that the US should follow the lead of New Zealand to reduce mass shootings and gun-related homicide. If that is truly possible is another question up for debate.
However, the US is a vast country with people of divided opinions, and getting to know their current gun control system and existing regulations may shed some light on understanding the division and their Second Amendment. From ensuring self-defense and protection to keeping your property safe, it’s natural that people want to have the means to protect themselves and their loved ones properly. Here we’ve listed a few important facts about gun laws and gun control in the US, as well as a few handy tips for owning and using a firearm in this country, so that you can get a glimpse into their system and understand how it works.
Unless it’s a personal exchange or a gun show, a licensed firearm seller needs to conduct a thorough background check on a federal level to ensure the person in question can own a gun legally. Dealers as well as owners need to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), and it needs to be renewed every three years.
The background check itself differs from state to state, although about 30 states rely only on FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), while the rest combine the data stored in this database with state-based information available locally.
Federal law prohibitions
So, you know that the Constitution promises the freedom to own and carry a weapon (although whether it’s concealed or not is another legal matter that differs from state to state), but gun control in the US is based on regulating specific groups of people at risk of illegal behavior. That is why the federal law which applies to the entire country states that convicted felons, people with mental disorders, illegal immigrants, fugitives, and the like, cannot own, purchase, or sell a firearm.
State-level laws further refine these restrictions, but all in line with what the federal law prescribes. Age is another relevant factor: if you want to purchase a shotgun or a rifle and ammunition, you need to be at least 18, whereas handguns and other firearms require you to be at least 21.
Preventing accidents with storage
Gun control doesn’t end with the process of buying, selling, or owning a firearm, but it also extends to its safekeeping. This practice prevents unsecure access to guns, especially in larger families where kids might stumble upon your personal firearm unattended. In the US, gun owners also need the best gun safe for their firearm of choice to make sure that their weapon is safely stored at all times. In turn, such a preventative measure helps keep kids safe, while you also remain in line with the law in most US states.
For example, California and New York require safe storage with a lock in place in case the firearm owner lives with a convicted felon or an abuser. Massachusetts, on the other hand, is currently the only state that requires all firearms to be stored in a locked compartment. Even without an explicit law of that nature, many US gun owners do follow this logic and keep their firearms safely stored to ensure secure use.
Ownership based on protection
Gun control in the many states of the US prevents the selling and owning of assault rifles and similar firearms that don’t necessarily increase the personal safety of an individual or their home, but have a far greater risk of endangering others. However, if you ask most US citizens, they’ll tell you that the primary reason for owning a weapon for them is to protect themselves and their property from intruders.
That is why most US states allow handgun purchases without a permit. In some states, however, you need to pass a written test and take a gun safety class to be permitted to own a rifle or a shotgun, and California is a great example of that.
The “gun show loophole” explained
As we’ve already mentioned, even the opposing political parties and the public in general agree that it’s necessary to conduct a thorough background check on a federal level to make sure that anyone purchasing a firearm has the right to do so. Limitations for prior convictions and specific mental disorders help prevent a gun from falling into the wrong hands. However, despite the clear legal limitations, many gun sellers at flea markets, gun shows (hence the name), and home sellers have the right to sell their firearm without an official permit, since they don’t own a business of that nature.
As a result, not every buyer goes through that necessary background check, because individuals without the FFL license don’t have access to federal databases and cannot be certain where their firearm will end up. This loophole, however, introduces an opportunity for conscientious gun owners to prevent such mishaps and to keep their firearms safely stored and sold only to reliable members of society.
Every state in the US has specific rules and regulations in terms of who is allowed to own, purchase, and sell a firearm, and what kind of firearms are prohibited. Add to that, concealed carry and open carry rules vary from one region to another, and the public has divided opinions on each matter. On the whole, gun ownership is often perceived as a matter of national identity and an essential human right (to defend oneself), so knowing how to handle a firearm and store it safely remains every individual’s responsibility no matter how gun control changes in the future.
About the Author
Peter is a lifestyle writer and a recent newly wed living in Brisbane, Australia. After graduating from Australian Institute of Creative Design, he worked as a fashion stylist and also as a freelance writer for few local magazines in Brisbane. Besides writing, he loves shopping, cooking exotic meals and traveling around tropical destinations with his hubby Josh. His future plans are in creating his personal lifestyle blog about everyday life-saving tips. Follow Peter on Facebook and Twitter.
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