The History of Gun Ownership in America

News | Mar 05, 2019


The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  This amendment was ratified on December 15, 1791.  America has a long history with gun ownership.  There is no end in sight for the current division of the pro and anti-gun argument in this country.  It’s important to note that gun laws go way back and most gun owners are in favor of background checks for private and gun show sales.  The average gun owner believes owning a gun makes him or her safer.  This idea has been around for quite some time.
According to, around the time of the American Revolution (1775-1783), “Several colonies’ gun laws required that heads of households (including women) own guns and that all able-bodied men enroll in the militia and carry personal firearms.”  Along with these requirements also came restrictions.  It was against the law to sell guns to Native Americans, Irish servants, slaves, doctors, school masters, lawyers, and millers.
During the “Wild West” era (roughly the 1865-1895), the laws seemed to become even stricter.  Some cities even required outsiders to have their guns checked with the sheriff before they could enter. On November 17, 1871, the National Rifle Association (NRA) was founded.  The goal back then was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis” to improve the marksmanship of Union troops.”
In the early 1900’s, mafia crimes sparked a cry for stricter gun control laws, specifically targeting machine guns.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was prompted by the assassinations of many celebrities of the time, including Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy.  According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “This Legislation regulated interstate and foreign commerce in firearms, including importation, “prohibited persons”, and licensing provisions.”
The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 states that gun dealers no longer have to keep track of ammunition sales, allowed gun dealers to sell guns away from the address listed on their license, and lifted many other previous restrictions.
The Brady Act of 1993 required a five-day waiting period for a licensed seller to hand over a gun to an unlicensed person in states without an alternate background check system.  The five-day waiting period has since been revised to an instant background check.  In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed The Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which outlawed 19 models of semi-automatic assault weapons as well as large-capacity magazines manufactured after this law’s enactment. However, the NRA lobbied against this act and in 2004 this ban was not renewed.
  In 2005, President George W. Bush enacted The Child Safety Lock Act.  This requires all handguns to be sold with a “secure gun storage or safety device.”  This goes along with another Act issued at the same time called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects manufacturers from being sued by families of gun death victims.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 was in response to the 2007 Virginia Tech University shooting.  This allowed the Attorney General to gain access to information pertinent to background checks, such as disqualifying mental conditions.
In 2016, President Obama pushed several executive actions through on gun control.  These actions included updated background checks, funding for ballistics evidence, and creating an Internet Investigations Center to track illegal online gun trafficking.
Currently, each state has their own set of gun laws and there is a wide range of strictness.  Arizona has the most lenient gun laws, while California has the strictest.  Even if you have a concealed weapons permit, most states ban carrying on K-12 school grounds.
It seems with every shooting the debate is reignited and each side is pushing for or against more gun control.  One side says stricter gun laws will prevent these shootings from occurring while the other side says criminals don’t follow the law, therefore the regulations wouldn’t have an effect on these incidents anyway.  It appears this issue isn’t going anywhere, so the best we can do is follow the law and take all safety precautions possible when purchasing, handling, and firing firearms.

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