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Gun Laws By State: How Federal Regulations Shape How States Can Legislate Weapons

Image: Gun Laws By State: How Federal Regulations Shape How States Can Legislate Weapons
This photo illustration shows a Remington 20-gauge semi-automatic shotgun, a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a Colt .45 semi-auto handgun, a Walther PK380 semi-auto handgun and various ammunition clips with a copy of the US Constitution on top of the American flag. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 11:22 AM

Federal firearms laws generally regulate the sales, possession, and transportation of firearms and ammunition while allowing other matters to be addressed through gun laws by state and local jurisdictions, according to the National Rifle Association.

Federal laws specify who may — and may not — possess firearms, according to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. The possession of firearms by fugitives from justice, illegal aliens, and certain convicted criminals is banned.

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The federal government also regulates the sale, shipping, and transportation of firearms, including banning people from carrying one aboard an aircraft, the NRA reported.

But because there has never been a federal law that covers the issuance of concealed or open-carry firearms permits, states determine the extent to which those can be issued, CNBC reported.

It said all 50 states allow concealed carry at some level, but some are considerably more restrictive than others.

California, Florida, Illinois, and the District of Columbia ban the carry of any firearm openly in public, while the restrictiveness of individual open-carry laws varies greatly in other states, according to CNBC.

The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act regulated the ownership of specific semiautomatic assault weapons and banned the ownership of large-capacity ammunition magazines, but that act expired in 2004 and was not renewed by the federal government. Regulation of assault weapons now takes place at the state and local level, according to CNBC.

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The Washington Post reported in August that dissatisfaction with the U.S. government had triggered the introduction of more than 200 bills in state legislatures over the past decade aimed at defying federal control over firearms. “Particularly in Western and Southern states, where individual liberty intersects with increasing skepticism among gun owners, firearms are a political vehicle in efforts to ensure states’ rights and void U.S. gun laws within their borders. State legislators are attempting to declare that only they have the right to interpret the Second Amendment, a movement that recalls the anti-federal spirit of the Civil War and civil rights eras.”

Two types of bills are the movement’s primary vehicles: One contending federal laws governing interstate commerce don’t apply to firearms manufactured and sold within a given state and another approach saying gun regulation falls outside the scope of the federal government’s power, making it state territory.

The Idaho Legislature unanimously passed a law targeted at keeping any future federal gun measures from being enforced in the state, while a “Second Amendment Protection Act” Kansas approved in 2013 said federal regulations didn’t apply to guns manufactured in the state and even made it a felony for federal officials to enforce U.S. firearms laws there.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responded by telling Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback the law directly conflicted with federal law and was unconstitutional. The Post added that the Brady Center for Gun Violence filed a lawsuit against Kansas last July seeking to block enforcement of the law.

The Post asked Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, to weigh in on constitutionality of these types of nullification laws.

“States are not entitled to nullify federal law,” Winkler said. “Any law that interferes with a valid federal law is unconstitutional. The federal law is supreme over state law.”

Anyhow, the measures often fizzle, even in conservative states, as the NRA doesn’t support nullifying federal gun laws because that could undo NRA legislative successes in Washington, D.C.

This article does not constitute legal advice. Check the current gun laws before purchasing or traveling with a firearm.

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Federal firearms laws generally regulate the sales, possession, and transportation of firearms and ammunition while allowing other matters to be addressed through gun laws by state and local jurisdictions, according to the National Rifle Association.
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2014-22-16
Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 11:22 AM
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