Gun Control Laws in America

ByABC News
December 14, 2012, 3:01 PM

Dec. 14, 2012 -- Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is the second deadliest shooting in American history, but whether this mass tragedy will yield any legislative action on gun control laws remains to be seen.

In his statement Friday, President Obama called for "meaningful action," but he did not specify a call for stricter gun control.

"We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics," Obama said, choking up during his statement.

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From 1994 to 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban prohibited the possession and further manufacturing of semiautomatic assault weapons that were capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Various types of pistols, shotguns and rifles fell into this ban, which did not restrict semiautomatic assault weapons that had been legally obtained before the ban went into effect. But the law stipulated that the ban would be in effect for only 10 years, and although proposals were put forth to extend it, the bills died in Congress.

With the assault weapons ban expired, there were two major federal statues that regulated the sale and possession of guns: the National Firearms Act, which was passed in 1934, and the Gun Control Act of 1968.

The National Firearms Act taxes the manufacturing and sale of guns, and it requires that gun distributors register all guns with the attorney general, and relay sales information. The Gun Control Act of 1968 builds on that law, requiring that gun manufacturers and salespeople be federally licensed. The act also prohibits the interstate sale of guns. In 1993, the Brady Handgun Prevention Act was passed. Named after White House press secretary James Brady who was injured in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, amended the Gun Control Act of 1968 to require background checks for those purchasing firearms

In 1993, the Brady Handgun Prevention Act was passed. Named after White House press secretary James Brady, who was injured in the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, it required background checks for those purchasing firearms who were not already licensed to carry them (those who were already licensed include police officers and other law enforcement agents).

The law did specify nine groups of people who were not allowed to legally purchase firearms, including convicted criminals who have received a prison sentence of more than one year, individuals who have been committed to mental institutions or have been flagged as being "mentally defective," unauthorized immigrants, individuals who have been convicted on charges of domestic violence, and those who have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

The law also puts an age restriction on purchasing guns as well: 18 to buy firearms classified as "long guns" (rifles), and 21 to buy firearms classified as "short guns" (handguns).

But proponents of stronger gun control argue that these laws don't go far enough, that it's too easy for people to obtain deadly firearms such as assault weapons.

In 2012, the country has witnessed multiple mass shootings -- at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and, earlier this week, at a mall in Oregon. But Congress has been slow to act on gun control.

A study on gun control legislation was presented to Congress in November 2012. Written by a specialist in domestic security and crime policy, it said that since March 2011,"much of the gun control debate in the 112th Congress has swirled around allegations that the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives mishandled a Phoenix, Ariz.-based gun-trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious."

In the coming days, as the country learns more about Adam Lanza, the shooter who carried out Friday's deadly attack and how he obtained the weapons, renewed calls for stricter gun control laws may begin to get heard.