Gun control is one of the greatest debates in America. Because the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution grants "the right of the people to keep and bear arms," there is nationwide controversy over what this really means in every day English. Although the actual amendment referred to the right of organized militias to possess firearms, today's laws do not require such participation and apply to the rights of individuals.
According to recent statistics, roughly 60 to 65 million Americans possess guns, accounting for approximately 45 percent of all American households. Of these, 30 to 35 million people possess handguns.
While firearm ownership is legal in all 50 states, each state varies when it comes to laws regarding firearm possession. It is important to know these laws before purchasing a firearm or traveling to another state with a firearm in your possession.
In order to purchase a firearm in most states, an FBI background check is required. While some states have no bans on the type of firearm sold, others ban assault weapons. Still others have waiting periods between the application process and the purchase of the firearm. Firearms can be legally purchased at firearms dealers or gun shows.
Although laws allow U.S. citizens to purchase and possess firearms, there are a number of types of people who are not permitted to own firearms. These include: convicted felons; fugitives; unlawful users of certain depressant, narcotic and sedative drugs; anyone diagnosed with certain mental disorders or committed to a mental institution; illegal aliens or citizens who have renounced their citizenship; anyone dishonorably discharged from the military; those under the age of 18 for a shotgun or rifle, and those under the age of 21 for other types of firearms; people convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; and anyone under a court-ordered restriction for such crimes as harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner. Violation of these laws can result in serious penalties.
The laws allowing for the possession of a firearm do not automatically entitle the gun owner to carry the concealed weapon. As of 2004, Right-to-Carry laws exist in 38 states. Of these 38 states, 34 of them require firearm owners to apply for permits enabling them to carry their weapon for self-defense purposes. These laws spark regular debates between gun rights and gun control advocates.
Illegal possession of a firearm refers to people who have not purchased their firearm from a licensed dealer or gun show. People who are in possession of stolen firearms risk fines and imprisonment. Anyone who commits a violent crime with a handgun will add at least five years onto his sentence; assault weapons or machine guns add 20 years to the sentence.
If you are currently under investigation for firearm possession, please contact us to speak with an expert crime attorney.
Find a Lawyer Now
Search for a Criminal Law lawyer in your state or province by using the forms to the right.