Gun Control

gun control, government limitation of the purchase and ownership of firearms. The availability of guns is controlled by nations and localities throughout the world. In the United States the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" is guaranteed by the Constitution, but has been variously interpreted through the years. Since the late 1930s federal judicial and law enforcement officials generally held that the right exists mainly in the context of the maintenance of a state militia, but in 2002 the Justice Dept., under Attorney General John Ashcroft, indicated that it interpreted the amendment as more broadly supporting the rights of individuals to possess and bear firearms. Such an interpretation was upheld by 2008 and 2010 Supreme Court decisions that nonetheless did not challenge the government's right to place some limitations on the ownership and possession of firearms.

Some U.S. states and localities have enacted strict licensing and other control measures, and federal legislation (1968) prohibited the sale of rifles by mail. Gun control has continued to be widely debated, however, and has often been opposed, notably by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Increasing gun-related crimes together with citizen pressure propelled congressional passage (1993) of the "Brady bill" (named for James Brady, the press secretary seriously wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan) after years of controversy. It required a minimum of a five-day waiting period and background check before a handgun purchase. Parts of the bill were challenged in court, and in 1997 the Supreme Court invalidated its background-check provision. The 1994 Crime Bill outlawed the manufacture, sale, and possession of military-style assault weapons, but it expired in 2004. In 1999, following a rash of shootings at U.S. schools, further gun-control legislation was passed by the Senate but was voted down by the House of Representatives. Attempts by some localities (through legislation) and individuals (through lawsuits) to pursue gun control through the courts by permitting or bringing negligence suits against a gun manufacturer or dealer when a weapon it made or sold was used in a crime led many states and, in 2005, Congress to pass laws limiting such suits. In 2013, however, the Dec., 2012, killing of 26 teachers and first graders at a Newtown, Conn., school led President Obama to propose a new assault weapons ban and other gun-control measures. That legislation died in Congress, but a few states enacted stricter laws.

See study by A. Winkler (2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origin of Gun Control in America
Hardy, David T.
The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4, April 2007
Polls Show Movement toward Stricter Gun Control with Major Caveats
Knickerbocker, Brad.
The Christian Science Monitor, December 29, 2012
Can Gun Control Work?
James B. Jacobs.
Oxford University Press, 2002
Gun Crusaders: The NRA's Culture War
Scott Melzer.
New York University Press, 2009
Gun Control 'Dream Team' Is Born: Can It Rival NRA for Political Firepower?
Jonsson, Patrik.
The Christian Science Monitor, January 1, 2013
Does Gun Control Reduce Crime or Does Crime Increase Gun Control?
Moorhouse, John C.; Wanner, Brent.
The Cato Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1, Winter 2006
Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence
Kates, Don B.; Mauser, Gary.
Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 30, No. 2, Spring 2007
The Global Gun Epidemic: From Saturday Night Specials to AK-47s
Wendy Cukier; Victor W. Sidel.
Praeger Security International, 2006
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "The Regulation of Firearms"
Open Fire: Understanding Global Gun Cultures
Charles Fruehling Springwood.
Berg, 2007
Where Do We Go from Here? Handgun Regulation in a Post-Heller World
Craven, Lindsey.
The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol. 18, No. 3, March 2010
Constitutional Law - Second Amendment - Fourth Circuit Upholds Federal Firearms Regulation
Harvard Law Review, Vol. 125, No. 3, January 2012
You've a Long Way, Baby: The Second Amendment Finally Applies to the States. Now the Fight over Gun Rights Really Begins
Doherty, Brian.
Reason, Vol. 42, No. 5, October 2010
Gun Control on Trial: Inside the Supreme Court Battle over the Second Amendment
Brian Doherty.
Cato Institute, 2008
Global Gun Control: Examining the Consequences of Competing International Norms
Grillot, Suzette R.
Global Governance, Vol. 17, No. 4, October-December 2011
Doctors for Gun Control
Levy, Robert A.
Regulation, Vol. 31, No. 4, Winter 2008
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