Lawmakers and civilians alike just cannot seem to agree on a universally accepted way to reconcile the gun issue rampant in the media right now. Is it a God-given right to carry a gun without restrictions, or should there be more preventative measures to regulate dangerous weapons? Everyone carries a loaded opinion and, especially after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, people are up in arms about changing gun laws. In fact, California and New York have already cracked down on gun laws in response to Sandy Hook, much to the disgruntlement of pro-gun activists.
While no one is advocating repealing the Second Amendment, a lot has changed since our forefathers grabbed their muskets to fight off the British. It’s important to take into account the current factors that lead to heightened violence in the US, and really consider whether guns should be readily available to any maniac who wants one.
Though the Supreme Court has ruled on some gun issues, most gun laws are largely left to the state. This often leads to some surprisingly lax gun laws, which can unfortunately be expoited by just about anybody who wants to do so.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Now and then we like to dig back into the TopTenz.net archives and re-share some of our best content as TopTenz Classics. Call us crazy, but this one feels somehow topical right about now. Please enjoy this classic list from 2013.)
10. The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency Is Prohibited From Accessing Crucial Gun Tracing Information
The ATF is one of those governmental agencies that is often overlooked, hidden under spotlighted agencies like the DEA and the FBI. Interestingly, these two federal crime-investigation agencies have seen their budgets grow in the past few years, while the ATF, the agency responsible for investigating gun legality, has seen their budget stagnate. This is only the beginning of their limitations however, for the amount of restrictions placed on the ATF is simply stunning. For an agency that is supposed to regulate firearms, they are not allowed to access records of out-of-business gun buyers, they are not allowed to conduct inspections more than once a year, they are not allowed to require federally licensed gun dealers to keep inventories, they are not allowed to use trace gun data to make conclusions about crime, and they are not even allowed to put gun records into a computerized system.
And these are just a few of their stipulations. That’s right, in today’s modern world, gun tracing information is still kept in old-fashioned file cabinets, and the regulatory agency isn’t really allowed to see them anyway. The major party responsible for the ATF’s limitations? You guessed it: the NRA.
9. Federal Law Does Not Require Criminal Background Checks At Private Gun Shows
The issue of criminal background checks has been a hot-button topic in the wake of Sandy Hook. Under current federal law, criminal background checks are only required for guns sold by licensed weapons dealers, which only account for about 60% of gun sales in the US. The “gun show loophole,” as it is commonly called, allows people to purchase guns at private gun shows without any kind of background check. So, at a private gun show, criminals or otherwise dangerous personas can pick up some heavy machinery without so much as a blink of an eye. This loophole also applies to guns sold on the Internet, through classifieds ads, and between individuals – all without any paperwork required. The gun industry doesn’t need a black market; the federal government basically gives anyone who wants one a free ride.
8. The Tiahrt Amendment Require Approved Criminal Background Checks To Be Destroyed Within 24 Hours
Now, this one is a real doozy. Named after Representative Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, the Tiarht Amendment, passed in 2003, makes it harder for lawmakers, police and journalists to access records of gun dealers, and therefore prosecute criminals. In fact, it requires that approved criminal background checks for gun dealers be destroyed within 24 hours, which makes it virtually impossible to catch dealers who falsify their records, or who buy guns on behalf of a criminal who wouldn’t pass a background check. The amendments also restrict state and local law enforcement from using gun-tracing data to catch criminals or revoke the licenses of law-breaking gun dealers. You might as well just wrap ribbons around the guns and pass them out to convicted felons with a note that says, “have fun!”
7. Almost Half Of All States Support A “Stand Your Ground,” or “Shoot First,” Policy
Florida has paved the way for their colloquially dubbed “shoot first” law. Passed in 2005, this measure repealed the longstanding law that homeowners or citizens on the street must retreat from an imminent threat before taking armed action. The new formulation grants immunity to people who act in violent self defense, and lowers the threshold for defensible violent action. While the law was crafted to increase the ability of victims to defend themselves, it came under raps last year during the Trayvon Martin case, when George Zimmerman used self-defense as his reason for shooting and killing an unarmed teenager he found “suspicious.” He’s been charged with second-degree murder, but this whole ordeal still brings into question how necessary it is for a “shoot first” mentality to be endorsed by law at all.
6. In Kennesaw Georgia, The Law Requires Every Home To Own And House At Least One Gun
Yep, that’s right – not only does this small suburban Georgia town raucously support gun ownership, they have a law that actually prohibits anyone from not owning a gun. Enacted in 1982 as a retaliation to Illinois’ ban on the sale and possession of handguns, this law is mostly symbolic; the majority of their citizens already own firearms, and anyone who says they’re morally against guns is exempt. However, the simple fact that this law exists is enough for Kennesaw to take the cake for most pro-gun stance in the country
5. 11 States Allow Convicted Felons Easy Access To Fully Restored Gun Rights
Convicted felons, while serving time, automatically lose their Second Amendment rights under federal law. However, once released, they are often immediately restored, with little or no judicial review. This loose process makes it easy for mentally unstable or dangerous criminals to get their hands on lethal weapons, which often leads to tragic circumstances. Criminals convicted for violent crimes often have it just as easy, able to get their gun rights restored by giving the court a show of good faith.
The requirements vary by state; Minnesota simply asks for “good cause,” Ohio calls for evidence of a “law-abiding life,” Washington will hand criminals guns again after a crime-free five years, and so on.
4. 23 States Allow Guns In Bars; In Missouri, It’s Legal To Be Intoxicated While Handling A Firearm
What do you get when you combine alcohol, bad judgment, and loaded guns? Usually not gentle conversation. Studies have shown that gun owners are more likely to take intoxicated risks, and more likely to drink and drive, then non-owners. There’s a high correlation between substance abuse and gun ownership yet, in 23 states, guns are allowed in bars – the type of place where fights are not uncommon, and where intoxication may lead to serious harm. Furthermore, Missouri recently revised their weapons laws to forgive intoxicated shooting, if it is deemed self-defense.
3. 16-Year-Olds In Vermont Can Buy Handguns, And Conceal Them, Without Parental Permission
That’s right; before teenagers in Vermont are allowed to serve in the military, take a sip of alcohol, or get a piercing or tattoo on their own, they’re allowed to buy a handgun under their parents’ radar. Why should parents be involved in their child’s relationship to lethal weapons? Well, for starters, teenage brains simply have not developed emotionally, or intellectually, enough to warrant unsupervised access to hazardous steel toys.
On a related note, certain gun makers have recently been ramping up their advertising to minors, appealing to children as young as eight, in order to get them to buy hunting rifles. Apparently, hunting has been going out of style, so the big gun industry is trying to introduce bullets to the young’uns early.
2. In Seven States, Concealed Weapons Are Allowed On College Campuses
Despite the sensational shootings that have now become an almost-regular aspect of American living, more states are now allowing the carry of concealed weapons on college campuses. Utah, Virginia, Colorado and Michigan have long allowed firearms at schools. Utah leads the pack with a state law that actually prohibits college campuses from banning firearms, based on the fact that colleges are state property. A few months ago, Mississippi and Wisconsin added provisions to allow guns on college grounds and, just this month, Arkansas began the process of allowing campus staff to carry concealed handguns at any time while on duty. “Fight fire with fire,” seems to be the thought process of these states, but do we really want college students feeling uneasy or militarized in their learning environment, which should be a safe space?
1. In Four States, No Permit Is Required To Carry A Concealed Weapon
In most states, some sort of permit is required to carry a weapon and, though requirements vary by state, their issuance is often determinant on the buyer’s ability to pass criminal background checks. Reasonably, this sort of regulation is meant to prevent carelessly issuing guns to violent criminals and anyone who, quite simply, shouldn’t have a gun.
However, in Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming, citizens are not required to have any sort of permit to buy and own firearms. As long as the purchaser is 21 years or older, he or she can buy guns independent of any sort of background check or validation, and is completely allowed to carry it around, totally concealed. It’s as easy as buying chocolate!
Need perhaps the ultimate example of how a law like this can go drastically, tragically awry? Jared Loughner, the notorious attempted assassin of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, killed six people in an open rampage in 2011. Aside from the part where he murdered numerous people, and came within inches of offing a government official, Loughner was in complete compliance with Arizona law.