Spread the love

This article is written by Isha Bajpai of 2nd Year of University of Mumbai Law Academy, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


This article is written in reference to the US gun control laws and how the history of gun control has emerged in the US. This article is written in order to understand the evolution of the gun control laws in the US, differences in the opinions and the laws of the democratic and republican states regarding gun control, the impact of these laws in the country etc. Along with the current and the old laws, the article also discusses whether better laws are required. Information has been gathered from different websites, cross-checked, and then put up in this article. There are differences in the laws of the different states. Most people believe that owning a gun is their basic right and that they require it for self-defence. This is one of the reasons that most people in the US own a gun. This article contains the landmark judgements as well as the incidents that have taken place in the country.


Gun control laws in US, gun control laws, arms and ammunition, 2nd amendment US Constitution, Heller case.


There are more guns than people in the US! In 2021 there were more than 400 million guns in the United States. There are several people who have died due to guns in the US, owing to the mass shootings that have taken place since the longest times. Gun violence has increased in the US. The number of people who have been killed due to guns is countless. This has been seen in not just one aspect (that is mass shootings) of using guns but shootings, encounters, accidents, violence, suicides etc. all of them are the ways in which guns are used for killings. There are more than 100 people who are killed in the US everyday due to the use of guns.


The objectives of this are to:

  • Study the current gun control laws in US
  • Emerging gun control laws since 1700s
  • See the difference in the laws of the republican and democrat states
  • Know the impact of the gun control laws
  • Understand the trend of the new laws in the states


The gun control means the laws relating to guns, ammunitions, firearms etc. Their production, sales, use, etc. is determined by the gun control laws. These laws are necessary to regulate the sales and use of guns majorly. Guns can be produced in any country but it cannot be sold to anyone or used by anyone. Proper licensing for selling and using the firearms is a necessity. Laws regarding the one who sells guns, buys them, and uses them is necessary. The Gun Control Act of 1968 is the act that regulates this in the USA. 


Gun Control in US is a major issue. Many recent crimes have observed the increased use of firearms. Many civilians have been killed due to shootings. Schools, churches, etc have witnessed the mis happenings of such incidents.


 In the 1700s, in the US there were laws regarding owning ammunition, owning gun powder, etc. people had to register the guns that they had, they were required to have a license for the same. Moreover, they could not carry their guns in the town. This remained for some time.

Late 1700s had –

  • Rules of owning ammunition
  • To register to own gun powder
  • To register the guns
  • Could not carry guns in the town

In 1791, the 2nd Constitutional Amendment of the United States was made. This amendment made bearing arms, a basic right for the citizens. The need to make this a basic right felt so necessary that it was kept along with free speech!

In the 1930’s that is around 2 centuries later, machine guns were banned in response to the gangs that had emerged in the country.

Finally, In the 1960s after the assassination of the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963, the Gun Control Act, 1968 was introduced. This act had imposed regulations on the fire arms regarding the shipment of firearms by mail order etc. and provided a list of people who were to be prohibited the sale of guns. It was introduced because of the violent crimes that had exceed in the country. The homicide rate in the country was exceeding by 5% each year.

Later in the 1990s,

President Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of US introduced the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, 1994 which is also called the Clinton Crime Bill in 1994. The bill imposed a federal ban on assault weapons.

In 2008, the Supreme Court gave a judgement of the case, District of Columbia v Heller[1], which raised a question on the second half of 2nd amendment of the US Constitution[2]. The Amendment mentions about the right of the militia persons for keeping and bearing arms. Heller challenged this on the ground that every individual in the US has this right.

The arguments raised were that keeping the guns locked or unloaded did not fulfil the main purpose of the gun, that is self-defence.

The Supreme Court held that the individuals who are not related to the militia also have the right to possess and use firearms for self-defence. Saying this, the Supreme Court also removed 2 unconstitutional District of Columbia Laws that:

  1. Banned the possession of firearms by officials other than law enforcement officers
  2. Required the people to keep their lawfully owned firearms unloaded, disassembled, or locked at all times. The exceptions to this law are-
  3. When used in a business setting
  4. When to be used for law recreational purposes

The 2nd amendment gives the citizens of US a right which is not absolute. Therefore, there are laws that still have their existence even after keeping and bearing arms is a basic right of the citizens. However, the judgement promotes laws regarding prohibition of use of firearms on the basis of certain people who use it as well on the basis of the place where such arms can be used.

The following persons are the ones who are prohibited from keeping or buying any type of arms and ammunitions in the US –

  • Persons who are mentally ill
  • Any convicted felons
  • Children who are under the age of 18 years

The following are the places where usage of firearms is prohibited –

  • Places such as school and government buildings

Additionally, laws regarding the following are also upheld, laws related to

  • prohibition to carry concealed weapons,
  • conditions and qualifications to be imposed on the commercial sale of firearms,
  • prohibition of dangerous and unusual weapons,
  • regulation of the storage of firearms in order to prevent accidents

The National Rifle Association of the US has also emphasized on the idea that guns are needed for self-defence.


“The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”, these were the words of Wayne Lapierre during a news conference after the Newtown shootings


In 2012 there was a firing in a school, Santa Hook Elementary School.

So, then states allowed school staff to carry guns instead of tightening the security or taking any other appropriate step to decrease the use of guns.

In the year 2017, 26 people were killed in Southern Baptist Church in Texas due to mass shootings. Since 1963, this was the 14th mass shooting that had happened at a house of worship.

In 2019 the laws made it legal to carry guns in place of worship, as the country believes in self-defence by a gun rather than strict checking and proper security.

 In 2018, Santa Fe High School, Texas a shooting killed 10 people (8 students and 2 teachers) and injured 13.  

Red flag law came that allowed the authorities can take firearms away from people who seemed dangerous.

In online shopping there is no scrutiny or ID proof requirements of the person buying any arms or ammunitions, they are just required to check a box to mean that they are more than 18 years of age and then the gun will be delivered. Anyone can get guns delivered at their place by this.

2019 – 2 shootings happened just a week apart in Texas

El Paso Walmart shooting and Midland Odessa shooting with 23 and 7 killed respectively. Dan Patrick, a Sportscaster and Radio Jockey had suggested tighter gun policies to be introduced.

2020 study on the impact of mass shootings on gun policy

The data scrutinized during this study was-

  1. 25 years of high-profile mass shootings
  2. Gun legislations that were passed during that time
  3. 3000 laws across all the 50 states

The findings of the study were –

  1. Democratic states had passed tighter gun laws after the mass shootings whereas the Republican states had loosened gun laws after the shootings.
  2. Gun laws were not necessarily tightened in democratic states after every mass shooting but were definitely loosened in republican states after the mass shooting.
  3. The gun laws at federal level remained frozen in time since 1990.
  4. Texas had the loosest gun laws.


Constitutional carry[3] was introduced which meant that no license or background check was needed for having gun. However, this was rejected by the republican leaders. 25 states had accepted.

Between McDonald v. City of Chicago[4] in 2010 and New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen[5] in 2022, there were no decisions related to the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution except for one decision in the Caetano case. In Caetano v. Massachusetts[6], the Court issued a brief, per curiam opinion vacating a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that upheld a law prohibiting the possession of stun guns.


Aftermath the Robb Elementary School Shooting, Uvalde, Texas where 19 students and 2 teachers were killed along with other 17 injured, Biden signed the most significant gun bill in 30 years. This bill incentivizes the states to pass red flag laws, but the bill cannot force them to make red flag laws.

Joe Biden thinks of gun violence as a public health epidemic. He aims towards making new gun laws stringent especially the ones related to rogue guns. He also showcased his willingness to actually apply the laws that are already present

There are kits available with parts of the guns (this is sold without any serial number so then no background check is done as it is not traced as being a firearm) that u can assemble to make a firearm using YouTube video instructions or a manual or a bit of know how. Joe Biden wants to make stricter laws in order to change such type of activity. Moreover, he also wants to put a ban on the assault weapons.


America has democratic states as well as republic states. Their opinions differ from one another in terms of gun control laws. The trends and patterns of the laws that come up as amendments in the laws after mass shootings are seen to be different as well. For instance, Massachusetts is a Democratic State of the US where people require a permit to own a gun, whereas Texas is a Republican State that does not require permission in order to own a gun. Most of the states in the US do not require any sort of background check, training, inspections, etc. for owning firearms in the state. The Democratic states push for gun control laws and on the other hand the Republican states push for gun rights.


  • There have been 1042 mass shooting in America since sandy hook massacre in 2012.
  • Obama had once said that thoughts and prayers are not enough.
  • US is 4 times more gun violent than any other developed country.
  • Americans constitute less than 5% of the world’s population, but own 42% of the world’s privately held firearms.
  • More than 50% citizens believe that they have the right to own guns.
  • Measures like background check and license requirements can save lives but their impact varies.
  • 48% people in US believe that shootings are a very big problem, 24% believe that it is a medium level problem, 22% people believe that it is a small problem, 6% believe that it is not a problem at all.


Americans in general having the basic right of owning a gun makes it difficult to control and regulate the use of guns. As writing on a paper that convicted felons cannot use guns bit there are hardly some people who have been convicted but many others who might be out there using guns and not even reaching to the stage of trials. The conflicts between the states also makes in difficult to keep a uniform law across the whole country. Although, after the arrival of Joe Biden things are taking a bit of a turn and things are getting a bit better. More federal laws in favour of decreasing the use of firearms must be made and implemented. Strict actions must be taken against such mass shootings.


  1. District of Columbia v Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008)
  2. McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010)
  3. New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1 (2022)
  4. Caetano v. Massachusetts, 577 U.S. 411 (2016)
  5. Gun Control Act, 1968, Enacted by the 90th United States Congress, US
  6. US Constitution
  7. BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36020717
  8. Constitution Annotated, https://constitution.congress.gov/browse/essay/amdt2-5/ALDE_00013265/
  9. Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2013/01/14/in-gun-control-debate-several-options-draw-majority-support/
  10. Npr, https://www.npr.org/2012/12/21/167824766/nra-only-thing-that-stops-a-bad-guy-with-a-gun-is-a-good-guy-with-a-gun
  11. CT Christianity Today, https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/november/mass-shooting-sutherland-springs-first-baptist-church-texas.html
  12. OLR Research Report, https://www.cga.ct.gov/2008/rpt/2008-r-0578.htm

[1] District of Columbia v. Heller,128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008)

[2] “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” (U.S. Cons. Amend. II).

[3] Right of a citizen of a given territory to carry a concealed firearm without a permit.

[4] McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010)

[5] New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1 (2022)

[6] Caetano v. Massachusetts, 577 U.S. 411 (2016)

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are intended solely for informational purposes. Accessing or using the site or the materials does not establish an attorney-client relationship. The information presented on this site is not to be construed as legal or professional advice, and it should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Additionally, the viewpoint presented by the author is of a personal nature.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *