The History of Gun Control In the United States

To understand the rules surrounding homemade guns today, you must first look at the history of gun control in the United States. There are a lot of widespread misconceptions and myths about guns, gun violence, and gun safety laws in America. The United States has the highest total and per capita number of guns in the world. Guns came with the pilgrims and have never left. Our nation’s passion for guns could be attributed to our colonial history, revolutionary roots, and drive for frontier expansion. However, it was our Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment that gave us the right to keep and bear arms and set out a framework for gun laws that exists to this day.

Our Founding Fathers Relied On Guns To Establish A Nation

Guns were a necessity and quite common in the American colonies. They were used for hunting food sources and for general protection. They later became weapons in events like the American Revolutionary War and Civil War. You may be surprised to know that one adult man from each household was expected to bring a gun with them to church or other public meetings. Some gun laws overseeing the colonies required that heads of households, even women, own guns. This was to protect themselves against attacks and prevent theft of firearms from unattended homes. 

Although guns were common in colonial and revolutionary America, our history of gun control in the United States shows us that gun restrictions were common too. While guns were still considered necessary to feed, clothe, and protect communities under British rule, colonists were frequently restricted to muskets and lower-grade rifles, which would put them at a distinct disadvantage against better-armed Red Coats with their more accurate Brown Bess muzzle-loaded rifles. This is, in part, why one of the first actions of the Revolutionary War involved seizing British weapons stores to augment the nascent country’s meager arsenal.

Individual Versus A Collective Right

Cowboy standing next to horse in front of a wild west building

One unanswered myth about gun legislation first appears in our Bill of Rights. It is a mystery as to whether the words recorded in the Second Amendment were referring to an individual’s right to bear arms or to the local, state, and federal legislative bodies’ right to bear arms. Some believe that citizens do not have an individual right to possess guns outside of service to a militia, while others believe citizens have the individual constitutional right to bear arms, armed citizenry being necessary to assemble a militia separate from an Army drawn up and maintained by the government.

This discrepancy in the interpretation of our Constitution has had a large impact on the history of gun control in the United States and has been the cause of many debates. Although this mystery may never be solved, some historians suggest that the need to distinguish between individual and collective rights would not have even been a debate. This is because the two were intertwined and not looked at as separate during this time. Legal and historical scholars have spent entire careers pouring over contradictory documents by and about the intentions of our founding fathers, and it is unlikely the debate will end anytime soon.

The Wild West May Not Have Been That Wild

There are plenty of myths about guns during this country’s frontier period. From the 1700s to the 1800s, there were a series of restrictions and gun laws created to prevent certain people, including African Americans and criminals, from owning guns. During this history of gun control in the United States, even free persons of color were not allowed to own, use, or carry firearms without suffering some sort of punishment.

Towards the late 1800s, the classic Wild West was in full swing. Visions of cowboys riding into old towns on horses with pistols blazing may come to mind. The movies paint the scene of lawless degenerates shooting up an old saloon while playing poker. But despite the Hollywood images of the Wild West, cities on the frontier often required visitors to check their guns with the sheriff before entering the town. 

Today, Legislation Regulates the Types Of Guns Americans Are Allowed To Have

Throughout the history of gun control in the United States, there have been plenty of gun laws passed that regulate the type of firearms civilians are allowed to own and the conditions under which they can own and maintain them. The major firearms laws that govern gun ownership today are:

  • The National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 – One of the first pieces of modern gun control passed in 1934. This act was passed in response to the famous gangsters and criminals of the 1920s and ’30s. Prohibition was during this time and paved the way for elevated gang violence. Al Capone and his cronies ruled the streets during this time, and their actions would forever change the history of gun control in the United States.

Contrary to the myths about guns during this time, they were not prohibited like alcohol. The National Firearm Act required all fully automatic and short-barrel firearms to be registered. That way, the government could keep track of who owned them and, if they got sold, who the new owner was. This act also imposed a $200 tax for registration which is still in effect today.

  • The Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 – Passed to further regulate the sale and transfer of firearms, its primary focus is regulating interstate commerce in firearms. This act prohibited minors, drug addicts, mentally unbalanced people, and convicted felons from purchasing guns. It forever affected the history of gun control in the United States by banning shipments of firearms and ammunition to private individuals across state lines.
  • The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 – This act completely banned civilians from owning assault rifles. In doing this, it cleared up some discrepancies in the GCA of 1968. In short, today, civilians are not allowed to own military-style assault rifles, and they’ve been regulated for the better half of a century.

In addition to these better-known gun control laws, gun owners are also impacted by executive rules set out by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) that interpret the laws and issue enforcement guidelines. Most recently, The ATF, under the direction of the Biden administration, changed requirements surrounding homemade firearm manufacturing. This further curtailed the rights of Americans to create firearms in their own home, making DIY guns more difficult to produce, but it’s still a hobby many Citizens enjoy.

You Can Still Build and Customize Guns

The history of gun control in the United States is extensive. Laws are constantly evolving to meet the needs of regulation. Not only is it unlikely gun laws will ever be removed from the picture completely, it is almost certain they will become more restrictive. As criminals get bolder, politicians and the media seem eager to seize on the fears of the vulnerable to push an ideological agenda that seeks to disarm law-abiding Americans. They haven’t succeeded yet.

For the true gun enthusiast who still believes they should be able to make a gun to keep and bear arms with, modern production practices like 3-D printing and CNC machines offer a way to create commercial-grade firearms that meet their shooting needs. Building your own gun is a great way to really get to know your firearm and its operation. Since 2013, we’ve been helping Second Amendment-loving Americans shoot better. Order your custom gun parts from JSD Supply today.