When it comes to gun laws in the U.S., we’re as far from united as it gets. Beyond the loose set of federal regulations that everyone must follow, there are 50 unique state laws and even more individual county and city rules. It’s resulted in a confusing tapestry of gun regulations that vary drastically depending on where you happen to be. There’s variation in anything from background checks and handgun permit requirements to the sale of semi-automatic weapons and waiting periods. Even rules on allowing firearms on college campuses, in bars, or even in churches can differ across certain state lines.
Federal Gun Law
Federal regulations apply to everyone. But due largely to the intense lobbying efforts and political influence of the gun industry and gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association, these laws have been significantly stripped over the last two decades (see our gun control timeline); they’re now far and away the loosest (and vaguest) of any industrialized country in the world. States must meet the basic requirements, and then have the option to enact some stricter regulations … if they choose to do so.
Federal law prohibits buying or transferring firearms across state lines, owning machine guns and other certain high capacity devices, and bringing guns onto school zones (“except as authorized”). Under the law, you also can’t buy or possess a gun if you’ve been convicted of domestic assault or other serious crimes, dishonorably discharged from the military, or if you have a restraining order against you. The prohibition also includes fugitives, drug users, illegal immigrants, and those deemed mentally ill or institutionalized. Continue reading