BOX 5.1 Brief Overview of Federal Firearm Laws and Regulations


War Revenue Act imposed a federal excise tax on firearms.


Firearms in U.S. mails, banned interstate mailing of firearms through the U.S. Postal Service.


National Firearms Act regulated the sale of fully automatic weapons, silencers, sawed-off shotguns, and other "gangster-type weapons."


Legislation mandated the licensing of dealers and manufacturers involved in interstate transactions and prohibited firearm sales to people convicted of certain crimes.


Legislation required serial numbers on all guns except .22 caliber rifles.


Gun Control Act placed additional restrictions on who could own guns, established minimum ages for purchase of long guns (18 years of age) and handguns (21 years of age), set minimum standards for imported firearms, established the federal firearm licensing system administered by ATF.


Firearm Owner Protection Act banned further manufacture of automatic weapons and legalized interstate sale of long guns under specified conditions.


Undetectable Firearms Act required plastic guns to be visible by x-ray or to trigger metal detectors.


Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act established federal requirements for a maximum five-day waiting period for handgun purchases in order to perform criminal background checks and increased the Federal Firearms License fee for gun dealers.


Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act banned manufacture and sale of any ammunition magazines with a capacity in excess of 10 rounds and banned manufacture and sale of semiautomatic rifles and handguns with specific characteristics.


Domestic Violence Offenders Gun Ban prohibited gun purchase by individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

SOURCES: National Committee (1989), Karlson and Hargarten (1997).

Recent regulatory trends at the state level include laws to deter and punish criminal use of firearms, gun safe-storage laws that hold the gun owner responsible if children gain access to the weapon (Cummings et al., 1997), limits on handgun purchases to one per month (Weil and Knox, 1996), and the issuing of licenses for carrying concealed weapons. In contrast to highway and traffic safety, no federal leverage has been used that could encourage the development, application, or evaluation of stringent state legislative approaches to reduce the accessibility of firearms in situations in which they are likely to lead to death and

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