Gun Laws in the US: The Basics You Should Know

a handgun on United States Constitution that dictates gun laws

Gun laws in the united states determine who is and isn’t eligible to buy, sell, or trade firearms. Firearm sales have skyrocketed in the last year and today, almost half of US households own at least one gun. Gun control is one of the most debated topics in American politics. One side calls for stronger legislation via federal law in order to reduce gun violence. Others feel restricting gun laws would leave citizens unable to protect themselves.

Regardless of your stance, gun businesses have also increased with the surge in sales. With federal laws and other regulations that vary greatly by state, it’s important to understand the basics of gun laws by state. This will help you make educated decisions for yourself personally and as a business owner.

What Constitutes as Gun Laws

gun laws by state

The second amendment of the US Constitution says “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

When the founding fathers wrote this in the constitution, they did not include specific details. For example, stipulations on how to regulate firearms or decide who is eligible to own them. Because of this, gun laws have all come from interpretations of this declaration over the years. Some are federal laws, and others determine gun laws by state.

Gun control is a popular term that describes the desire to create explicit gun laws, including:

  • The types of firearms the public can buy or sell
  • What makes someone eligible to buy, sell, or own guns
  • How guns should be stored or carried in public
  • The duties firearms dealers have to evaluate a buyer
  • How sellers and buyers report their transactions to the government
  • Limitations on ammunition, magazines, or technology to the public

Gun laws by state vs. federal law

Federal law established the national standard regarding the eligibility of a person to own a firearm. The federal government also requires gun dealers to take certain measures before selling someone a gun. These include conducting background checks and denying gun possession to prohibited persons. Prohibited persons include those convicted of certain crimes, suffering from mental illness, or subject to court orders regarding domestic violence.

States have the power to enact laws to keep the system running smoothly and further define who can bear arms. Regulating gun laws by state allow courts, prosecutors, and state law enforcement to be able to carry out specific rules. For example, gun laws in California are much more restrictive than those in Texas due to state requirements on top of federal law.

Age requirements

Gun laws first arose in the late sixties, with The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). This law lets citizens purchase ammunition, rifles, or shotguns at the age of 18. For all other types of firearms, citizens must be 21 and purchase from a dealer with a federal firearms license.

Purchases vs. transfers

If you purchase a gun online, from another state, or in a state prohibiting private firearm sales, you will participate in an FFL transfer. This is a transfer of firearms with a federally licensed dealer. During a licensed transfer, the dealer follows all of the state’s eligibility requirements and runs a background check. Because gun laws vary so much by state, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the regulations in your area.

As you can see, federal law is pretty clear about the foundational requirements of who can buy or sell firearms. On the other hand, there are various loopholes in the laws. These loopholes allow individuals without an FFL to buy, sell, or transfer guns. Why? Because only those who regularly sell firearms as a form of business or profit are required to have an FFL. Any individual who only makes sales once in a blue moon is exempt from needing a license. In addition, there’s a gun show loophole that categorizes gun shows separately from dealers. This means quite a number of people can be in possession of a firearm without ever getting a background check.

Who Can Legally Sell Guns?

To become a firearms or accessories dealer, you must be at least 21 years of age and have an FFL. According to gun law, you must also have a store, whether it’s online or a brick-and-mortar location. If a dealer sells through an online shop, the physical gun still goes to a registered dealer, who runs the background check before turning the firearm over to its new owner. Firearm sellers must also be eligible to own a gun just like any other member of the public.

Gun Laws by State: A Brief Overview

gun law

Some states have created stricter regulations and eligibility criteria to limit access to firearms. Some have even incorporated federal firearm prohibitions into their state’s laws. However, most states have laws that prohibit a person with a felony conviction or yearlong jail sentence from owning a firearm. Some states in the U.S. go even further, prohibiting firearm access to those convicted of certain types of misdemeanor offenses.

Here are a couple of states with more stringent regulations:

Illinois: Here, anyone with battery, assault, aggravated assault, or violations of an order of protection where a firearm was present in the past five years, is prohibited from possessing a weapon.

New York: Not only can someone convicted of a felony in New York not own a firearm, but this state has categorized other “serious offenses” that prevent firearm ownership. For example, anyone who has committed child endangerment, specific disorderly conduct crimes, and certain stalking offenses.

Are There Loopholes in Gun Laws?

As we briefly mentioned, there are various loopholes that exist in regards to gun law that need to be addressed. Here are just a few to give you a better picture of why these are issues:

Gun Show Loophole: In many states, private sellers are not required to perform background checks on buyers. For example, if you own a gun and would like to sell it at your local gun show in a state that does not have legislation requiring a background check for buyers, then any private buyer may purchase your firearm. The person who buys this gun could be prohibited from owning a firearm or considered dangerous and no one would ever know. This can be very dangerous and is known as the gun show loophole.

The “Boyfriend” Loophole: In cases of domestic violence, only those who are or were married to the victim at some point, share a child with, or are the parents of the victim are prohibited from buying a firearm. What about partnerships? If the parties involved do not share children, or a marriage, then they would be eligible to purchase a gun at any time. This increases the risk of more violence.

What Can You do?

In America, it is our right to bear arms and be able to protect ourselves. But all in all, there is much more work to do to keep firearms from falling into the wrong hands and causing more violence. When it comes to gun laws, states will need more stringent and consistent legislation across all states and territories to ensure a safer and brighter future for the next generation. Not only that, but changes will also be necessary to keep up to date with the latest shifts in technology and public opinion.

At the end of the day, it is important to be fully aware of the laws in your state and how they affect your use of firearms and your ability to buy or sell one. Education is key, and as a legal resident or citizen of the United States, you are responsible for the actions you take if you decide to sell firearms. Traditional banks and payment processors consider gun sales high risk, so do your research. This will help you make the best decision for yourself and your customers.

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