Firearms and the legislation

In view of the discussion around gun control, I looked back a bit to see what some of the milestones regarding gun control were.  Today we argue about our founding fathers being of the mind to allow anything, we argue about the “new push” for gun control, we argue about what people 50 years ago believed (popular are quotes from Reagan on personal responsibility).


Militia Acts of 1792

The 1792 federal law mandated every eligible man to purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. The weapon types were explicitly outlined. Such men had to report for frequent musters—where their guns would be inspected and registered on public rolls.

1866 march to the 14th Amendment – the real gun ownership amendment.

Following the civil war, there was a glut of firearms in the north. There also remained an intrinsic threat to black people. President Lincoln pushed for individuals, including and especially black people, to be allowed to retain their weapons from the service. This was seen as necessary for their personal defense in view of the threat still posed by racists.

In the south, blacks were barred from owning guns. Laws were implemented following a concept of the  “Black Code”, which explicitly denied blacks the same rights as whites, and more specifically, with regards to ownership of property; guns were a deniable properly. This left blacks in the south more vulnerable to the continued threats of their white neighbors.

Congress pushed for and passed the 14th amendment, which codified every free person’s rights to equal access to the benefits granted by the Constitution. While guns were not explicitly identified, they were intended to be and in fact covered under the concept of property.

This was the first recognition of the individual’s rights to own a gun. It was not granted under the second amendment but under the 14th. In the view of the leaders of that time, the issue was not access or no access to firearms, but if there was access to firearms, the same access must be granted to all.

 “too much freedom?”


National Firearms Act of 1934, the first federal gun-control law, which levies a restrictive $200 tax on the manufacture or sale of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. All sales were to be recorded in a national registry


Roosevelt wins approval of the National Firearms Act of 1938, which requires the licensing of interstate gun dealers, who must record their sales. It prohibits sales to individuals under indictment or convicted of crimes of violence.


Governor Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” He called guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan said he didn’t “know of any sportsman who leaves his home with a gun to go out into the field to hunt or for target shooting who carries that gun loaded.”

This was in response to the Black Panthers using “civilian patrol” to counter police brutality. The patrollers were armed and openly challenged the police with threats of counter-force should the police use their weapons. The Republicans lead the charge for gun control.

Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and the Gun Control Act of 1968: federal laws regulating firearms. It prohibits all convicted felons, drug users and the mentally ill from buying guns; raises the age to purchase handguns from a federally licensed dealer to 21; and expands the licensing requirements to more gun dealers and requires more detailed record-keeping.


Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. Limits ATF inspections of gun dealers. And it banned civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986. Guns made before then were allowed.


The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act : The law specifies 19 weapons that have the features of assault rifles, including the AR-15, certain versions of the AK-47, the TEC-9, the MAC-10 and the Uzi, several of which had become the preferred weapon of violent drug gangs. The act also bans large-capacity ammunition magazines, limiting them to 10 rounds. The law does not apply to weapons that were already in legal possession, and there are easy ways to adapt new weapons to avoid the prohibitions.


Congress passes the Tiahrt Amendment to a federal spending bill. The amendment, proposed by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), prohibits law enforcement from publicly releasing data showing where criminals bought their firearms.


Asault weapons ban lapses and is not renewed by congress.