David B. Kopel

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Second amendment, Background checks, Longstanding


This article examines past and present systems requiring that a person receive permission before buying or borrowing a firearm. The article covers laws from the eighteenth century to the present. Such laws have traditionally been rare in the United States. The major exceptions are antebellum laws of the slaves states, and of those same states immediately after the Civil War, which forbade gun ownership by people of color, unless the individual had been granted government permission. Today “universal background checks” are based on a system created by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his “Everytown” lobby. Such laws have been enacted in several states, and also proposed as federal legislation. Besides covering the private sale of firearms, they also cover most loans of firearms and the return of loaned firearms. By requiring that almost all loans and returns may only be processed by a gun store, these laws dangerously constrict responsible firearms activities, such as safety training and safe storage. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California are among the jurisdictions which have enacted less restrictive, more effective legislation which create controls on private firearms sales, without inflicting so much harm on firearms safety.

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