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Federal Gun Laws and Acts
This portion of our web site is to provide a general overview of some of the most important gun laws that exist in our country.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES THE DISCUSSION ON GUN LAWS IS TO BE INTURPRETED AS LEGAL ADVICE OR TO BE DEEMED LEGALLY ACCURATE.
CONTACT A LOCAL ATTORNEY IN THE STATE IN WHICH YOU RESIDE FOR A LEGAL OPINION AND INTERPRETATION OF FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL GUN LAWS.
If you reside in Colorado or intend to apply for the Colorado Carry and Concealed Weapons License, Level 1 Firearms Safety and Training has a class dedicated to the legalities of gun ownership which meets the state of Colorado requirements. Please contact us if you are interested in attending this class.
Laws are created because those who lack common sense need to be told the difference between right and wrong. In essence, a law is created when someone does something no other person with common sense would do. For example, if your firearm is not on your person
it should be locked in a safe
--simple, common sense. A recent shooting occurred because the gun owners didn't lock their guns in a safe. Their "trustworthy" teenager decided to go on a shooting spree and everyone is blaming the gun, not the owner, not the teenager, for the complete disregard for basic gun safety--hence, a law is in the making for what should be everyday common sense.
Equally disturbing are the gun laws that prevent law abiding citizens from protecting themselves should the situation arise. For example, placing a "No Guns Allowed" sign at the entrance to the mall or movie theater disarms citizens, provide a location where a lot of people gather together in one spot, and does nothing, absolutely nothing, to prevent the criminal from entering and going on a shooting spree. The criminal is in a "safe place" because the law abiding citizen has been disarmed. Once again, the gun is blamed for mass destruction where the establishment that disarmed citizens is held completely harmless and innocent of their participation of creating a "gun-safe" environment for the criminal.
Some laws make sense, such as preventing a felon from purchasing a firearm, or not being able to purchase a firearm if the person has been convicted of a domestic violence crime, or preventing the purchase of a firearm when the person is mentally unfit. These laws are in place to prevent potentially dangerous persons and those who cannot accept the responsibility of owning a firearm from attaining one.
Whatever your position, one thing is certain: More gun laws will come if gun owners do not act responsibly. Stop the landslide of new laws by using common sense, keep your guns secure from unauthorized access, and keep your gun on your person or locked in a safe. Always keep your gun in your holster unless you are truly threatened or are in fear for your life.
The Brady Law was originally created to enforce tighter gun control laws and to require a federal background check be performed before allowing a person to purchase a firearm. While the tighter, stricter gun control measures have expired, the bill still imposes the federal background check.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) Form 4473
When purchasing any firearm, all persons must fill out a BATF Form 4473, which provides the ATF with information related to the firearm, serial number, make, model, description, together with the name and address of the purchaser. The form also includes a series of questions designed to uncover if the person purchasing the weapon is prohibited from doing so under Federal law. The purchaser must then swear under perjury of law that the information provided and the questions answered are true and correct. The penalty for lying on this form is punishable as a felony.
Gun Control Act of 1968
This law stopped the once common practice of selling a firearm via mail order and established the common reasons a person may be denied the right to purchase a gun, which includes: Felons, illegal drug users, those committed to a mental institution or deemed mentally incompetent, those who are not U.S. Citizens and those who have renounced their citizenship.
This law extended the list of unauthorized persons to include anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime and anyone who is under a restraining order.
The law seriously limits anyone who going through a divorce (restraining orders are automatically issued even when there is no threat to the other spouse), and those who, as young adults, may have slapped their spouse in a heated argument and were then arrested and charged for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Many young couples have domestic disputes and bouts of light physical exchanges. To receive a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction all that is required is to prove some level of assault occurred between the married or live-in partner.
Many young, immature couples either figure it out or get divorced. Seldom do they rise to an occasion where either spouse ends up in the hospital or seriously injured. If that were the case, that would be a Felony, something that would make sense to restrict a person from being able to own a firearm.
State and Local Gun Laws
We will be covering Idaho State Gun Laws in another section of our site. Generally, states will create their own laws when they feel the Federal laws are not sufficient. For example, one state may simply adopt a no-issue or may-issue stance when it comes to carrying concealed. These states tend to make it as impossible as they can limiting it licenses to the very elite and wealthy. Utah, for example, will not issue a license to anyone with a minor misdemeanor DUI offence because they possess "moral character flaws" the state does not approve.
Other states and municipalities will band certain guns based on their style, model, capacity, or for just about any other reason they don't like the weapon. California as a list of "state-approved" guns which essentially limit you to a very limited selection. There can be waiting periods, cooling off periods, registration requirements, permits to buy a firearm, and limitations on the amount and type of ammunition you can use. As always, please consult a local attorney for a complete explanation of your state and local laws.
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
This law, also known as the 1994 Crime Bill, prevented the sale, transfer, or possession of semi-automatic firearms having a capacity greater than 10 rounds. The law expired in 2005 and has since then been ignored, however, many states adopted the law into their state statues--gun owners should check with an attorney in their state to see if the magazine limit was adopted at the state level.
Intrastate and Interstate Acquisition and Transfer
You can purchase a gun locally within your state provided:
The seller is a bonafide Federally Licensed dealer;
A local resident who resides inside your home state, or
Over the Internet provided the firearm is shipped to a local, licensed dealer who will complete the delivery of the gun to you after verifying you can own a gun in your state.
It's important to note, even during a private transaction, a gun cannot be transferred to anyone who is knowingly excluded from gun ownership at the state or federal level. This means if you knowingly allow someone who is exempt from possessing a firearm and allow them to handle a firearm, loaded or not, you could be arrested and charged with violating the law.
Finally, a new type of "will" for firearms is gaining popularity and should be discussed with an attorney. The transference of a firearm after your death could have legal ramifications to the receiver of the gift or someone in their family. Be sure they are able to legally accept the firearm before leaving it to them in your will.
General Possession and Transportation of a Firearm
Possession in most states is described as having control over the property in which you have been entitled. This means if the firearm is in your home, under your control, on your person, sitting in a drawer where you can access it--you are considered to be in control of a firearm. If a Felon enters your home, you are breaking the law if that person can gain easily access to that firearm without your direct consent.
Federal law prohibits the possession of a firearm in, on, or about a Federal building, such as a Post Office, Federal Court House, the IRS, and like buildings. Possession may also be prohibited in other areas, such as a military base, National Park, School Zone, and so forth. Regardless of your status as a licensed firearm owner, these and other areas do not honor your permit for any reason--be sure to check with a local attorney for additional information.
There are no states we are aware that prohibit you possessing a firearm in your home. Possession outside your home, especially when concealed carry, is subject to your state and local laws. We suggest contacting an attorney and understanding these restrictions before you attempt to go anywhere in public with a handgun; loaded or not. Some states, such as Idaho, allow "open carry" of a firearm that's in a holster and in plain view but do not permit you to carry without an Idaho Carry and Concealed Weapons Permit. Other states, such as Vermont, permit you to carry concealed without any license, provided you are not excluded from gun ownership, which is known as a "Constitutional Carry" (looks like Vermont read the 2nd amendment!).
Your right to carry, even on your own property or business, is likely affected by state and local laws. For example, some states do not permit you to carry outside your home while others allow you to carry provided you're on your own property. Other States will have laws depending on where you currently are staying--for example, in a hotel, RV, or camping in a tent. While still others will not allow you to carry your gun anywhere unless it is unloaded, locked in a case, and the ammunition is locked and located in still another location (welcome to California). If you are transporting your weapon between locations in an unfriendly gun state, it's usually best to have the firearm unloaded, locked in a case, located in the trunk, with the ammunition located in its own separate location away from the gun. States such as these are very intolerant of a firearm anywhere in the vehicle unless you are specifically traveling to or from a gun range; it's probably not a bad idea to know where the ranges are located when traveling.
The McClure-Volkmer Gun Owner's Protection Act
(memorize this one, it's important)
This Act allows gun owners to transport their handgun through another state PROVIDED they are just traveling through to reach their intended destination. In theory, if you are stopped for a traffic violation and the officer discovers your gun holds 13 rounds and their state allows only 10 rounds, TECHNICALLY, he has no legal authority to confiscate your weapon, provided it is stored securely and properly according to their state laws. However, the best prevention is to not get that citation in the first place! If the officer wants to look in your trunk, he has to ask if that's OK. If he has to ask, that means he needs your permission; you have every right to say "no". If he insists, you can ask for the duty Sargent or for a warrant before complying with the request. Keep in mind, the more you aggravate the officer, the greater your chances of getting attitude in return--together with a healthy citation. The best advise-- avoid getting stopped, don't speed, you'll get there a lot safer, with less hassles, and no citations.
Public transportation on a bus, train, subway, aircraft, taxi, or by other means generally have their own set of laws depending on the state in which you reside. Some states do not allow firearms while using public transportation while others will permit it provided you have a valid concealed carry permit honored by the state. While still, the transportation agency may have their own rules which have nothing to do with the laws of the state. As with most items, be sure to ask the public transportation agency what their rules and regulations are after contacting a local attorney and checking local laws within the state related to public transportation.
A simple rule of thumb is anything under Federal control and/or protection will likely not allow firearms, such as with an airline carrier. However, these forms of public transportation may have travel guidelines you can follow to ensure you are compliant with the laws that govern them and the rules and regulations of the transportation company, For example, you can transport a firearm on a plane provided you have removed all ammunition, locked the gun in a TSA approved gun case, and have filled out the appropriate forms at the airline counter. The TSA agent will ask that you open your gun case, possibly request you demonstrate your gun is unloaded, and then ask you to place the lock back on the case. The case will then be placed with the rest of the suitcases that will travel in the cargo area of the plane (or in your suitcase which will then be placed in the cargo area of the plane). Ammunition can generally travel inside your suitcase provided it's in the original ammunition box it was purchased. Always cooperate with TSA agents and remember, if you have to dispose of something during your travels, ammunition is far less expensive to replace if told you cannot have it in your suitcase.
NEVER go through airport security with your gun in your pocket, holstered to your hip, or in your possession.
ALWAYS declare your empty firearm at the airline counter and NEVER open the case until directed.