There are about 20,000 federal, state, and local gun laws in the United States, making firearms the most regulated gear item an outdoorsman can buy. Federal gun laws fall into two broad categories: the 1968 Gun Control Act and the 1934 National Firearms Act. The GCA regulates with guns that anyone who hasn't commited a felony can buy at a local gun shop. The NFA deals with guns like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. In the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' 468-page compilation of state and local laws, five states combined -- California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York -- take up about a third of the book. California's laws alone fill 68 pages of fine print. With the pages and pages of regulations, it can be difficult to keep track of the most outrageous laws, so we went to our veteran Second Amendment writer and Gun Shots blogger John Haugey to put together his list of the dumbest gun restrictions in the books.
ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN
There are so many statutory definitions of assault weapons in local, state and federal laws, a muzzleloader with a bayonet could be classified as one. The now-expired 1994 Federal Automatic Weapons Ban defined an assault weapon as a firearm with a detachable magazine and a pistol grip, sometimes in conjunction with other features, such as a folding stock or a muzzle break. Why it’s dumb
It was overly complex and outlawed guns that were not actually “assault weapons.” But gun control zealots, such as Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), want to resurrect a new version of it by banning high-capacity ammunition magazines through her proposed H.R. 308 — The Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act — which has been formally proposed in the House of Representatives.
Four states, California, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey limit firearm purchases or sales to one per month. Why it’s dumb
This law makes society safer because violent criminals won’t risk breaking the law to stockpile weapons? Wrong. The people who actually follow this regulation are law-abiding citizens who should be allowed to buy as many guns as they want, whenever they want.
Firearm microstamping, or ballistic imprinting, or ballistic engraving, is the use of laser technology to engrave a microscopic marking onto the tip of the firing pin and onto the breech face of a firearm. When the gun is fired, these etchings transfer to the primer by the firing pin and to the cartridge case by the breech face, using pressure created when a round is fired. When spent cartridges are ejected, these microscopic markings are imprinted on cartridges, which can then be examined to trace the firearm to the registered owner. Why it’s dumb
Although this technology is unproven, and there are no reliable statistics to substantiate how useful it may be, California passed a law in 2010 to prohibit the sale of new models of semi-automatic handguns that don’t “micro-stamp” identifying information on fired cartridge cases. Similar legislation is under consideration in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wisconsin and Illinois while Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) will allegedly sponsor a nationwide microstamping bill before 2013. Photo: Microstamper
CONCEALED CARRY VAGARIES
The Nanny Republics of Illinois and Wisconsin remain the last two states that don’t recognize their citizens’ Second Amendment right to carry any concealed firearms in public. The other 48 states “allow” citizens, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit, to do so in varying degrees. For instance, New York’s Sullivan Act requires a permit to carry or own any gun small enough to be concealed. The permit is issued on a “per gun basis” by local law enforcement, so it provides a great deal of local discretion that can be manipulated, such as charging exorbitant fees and imposing extensive waiting periods. Only Alaska, Vermont, Arizona and Wyoming allow residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. However, valid permits to carry in some states, such as California, can be voided by local ordinances that prohibit open or concealed carry with or without a permit, or by restricting the possession, purchase and transport of ammunition. Why it’s dumb
CCW regulations that vary widely from state to state and are full of snags and stipulations can trick law-abiding citizens into becoming criminals.
A variety of laws make moving to a new state with guns incredibly difficult. New York, for instance, doesn’t give new residents any grace period before requiring them to get a license to possess a handgun. Therefore, even if you have a permit to carry and your firearms are legally registered in your former state, the act of actually seeking a permit in New York — depending on where you are — means that you are in possession of an “illegal” firearm. Figure that one out. Why it’s dumb
If you move from one state to another, you may need to leave your legally owned firearms behind.
REPLICA AND COLLECTABLE CHAOS
A bizarre mix of federal, state and local laws can make the collection and preservation of antique firearms a potentially criminal hobby. For instance: Some older military pistols, such as the German Army’s Lugers, can have a shoulder stock. You can legally attach an original shoulder stock to an original Luger, but if you attach one to a replica, that’s a felony — unless you purchase a $200 stamp through the BATFE and, of course, if it is legal in your state, your county, your city. Why it’s dumb
Is a Luger with an origional shoulder stock less of a threat to society than a replica Luger with a shoulder stock?
SHALL AND MAY (NOT) ISSUE
A Shall-Issue state requires a permit to carry a concealed handgun, but the granting of such permits is subject only to meeting certain criteria laid out in the law; the granting authority has no discretion in the awarding of the permits. Such laws typically state that a granting authority shall issue a permit if the criteria are met, as opposed to laws in which the authority may issue a permit at its discretion. There are 37 Shall-Issue states. There are nine May-Issue states that allow local authorities, primarily the sheriff’s department or police, to exercise discretion in issuing permits. Why it’s dumb
The law gives local authorities the ability to dictate whether you can carry a concealed handgun, and there’s a strong possibility for that power to be abused. California, in particular, gives wide latitude to local authorities within some jurisdictions, such as San Francisco, imposing a defacto “No-Issue policy.” Photo: accurateshooter.com
If you enjoy rebuilding and retooling military rifles, make sure you are doing so only with parts made in America. Using imported parts is illegal. If this prohibition can be imposed on firearms enthusiasts, maybe it should be made the law of the land for all manufactured goods. In California, for instance, having a pistol grip on a rifle is illegal. Of course, pistol rifle grips are found in most of the rifles used by military forces around the world, including the U.S. So, while an AK-47 is legal in California, if it has a pistol grip, it cannot have a removable magazine. You can install a “bullet button” or a “mag lock” to get around this regulation to modify the rifle to remove the magazine. Or, you can remove the pistol grip and install a “Monster Man Grip,” which negates the need for a mag lock or a bullet button but diminishes the rifle itself. Why it’s dumb
These modifications do not make anyone safer, the rifle has the same lethality, but it does inconvenience owners and makes anti-gun advocates feel good. Photo: curiosandrelics
NON-RECIPROCAL CONCEALED CARRY WEAPONS
Despite repeated efforts in Congress and in State Legislatures, there is still no blanket provision recognized nationwide that honors an individual’s permit to carry. A proposed federal law that would allow concealed-weapons permit holders to carry handguns across state lines has failed in the House of Representatives at least four times since 2007. But now, with Republicans controlling the House, maybe the time is right to pass the long-awaited National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act. In early March, H.R. 822, was introduced in the House by Congressmen Cliff Stearns (pictured), R-Fla., and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.). The measure would allow any person with a valid state-issued concealed carry permit to carry a concealed firearm in any state that issues concealed firearm permits, or that does not prohibit the carrying of concealed firearms. Why it’s dumb
Not understanding CCW reciprocity between states (which sometimes takes a law degree) could make a law-abiding gunowner a felon merely by traveling across the state line.
BANS ON SHOOTING RANGES
Chicago and Blairstown, N.J., are among local jurisdictions that actually outlaw gun ranges — private or commercial — on private property. In Massachusetts, it is illegal for shooting ranges to have targets that resemble human beings. Why it’s dumb
The best way to learn how to safely use a firearm is by practicing with it under the instruction of an expert … at a shooting range. Photo: Ratha Grimes
Some states require licensing of gun owners or the registration of handguns and long guns. In Hawaii, gunowners must register “firearms of any description, whether usable or unusable, serviceable or unserviceable, modern or antique.” New Jersey has three separate types of licenses — a “Firearms Purchaser Identification Card” for long guns, a “Permit to Purchase” for handguns and a separate “Permit to Carry” for handguns. Massachusetts is even more bizarre, with a “Firearm Identification Card” as well as “class A” and “class B” licenses. Good luck figuring it out. Why it’s dumb
If you live in Hawaii and own a wall-mounted antique that can’t shoot and isn’t legally defined as a “firearm” under federal law, you must still register it with local police because … it’s the law.
HAVE GUN, CAN’T TRAVEL
A crazy quilt of laws could land you in jail if, for instance, you are flying from one place to another and your plane lands in a New York City airport and there’s a firearm stowed in your luggage. In New Jersey, the law states that when a person is transporting a handgun, “the course of travel shall include only such deviations as are reasonably necessary under the circumstances.” So, if you take a side trip to get lunch after shooting at a range, you can end up in one of the Garden State’s many fine correctional institutions. Here’s another: A Clark County, Nevada, ordinance makes bringing a concealable firearm into the county illegal unless it is first registered with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department regardless if the possessor has a permit to carry from another state, or even from elsewhere in Nevada. Why it’s dumb
To comply with the Clark County law, you first have to somehow smuggle your gun it into the city to get it resigstered. Obviously, this requirement has been very effective in reducing gun-related crimes in Las Vegas because criminals wouldn’t want to risk arrest by being in possession of an unregistered gun.
Apparently, proponents actually believe an armed evil-doer won’t use a firearm to commit a crime if he sees a ‘Gun-Free Zone’ sign and knows his law-abiding prey has been disarmed by regulatory fiat. To compound the silliness, now Rep. Peter King (R-NY) wants to make each and every elected official a moving gun-free zone. King’s knee-jerk reaction to the shooting deaths of six people on Jan. 8, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz., that left Representative Gabrielle Giffords severely wounded, is to essentially create gun-free zones within 1,000 feet of elected officials. King seemingly believes if there was a gun-free zone around Giffords, Jared Lee Loughner wouldn’t have shot her and 19 others in a grocery store parking lot. Why it’s dumb
Unfortunately I have not memorized the faces of all 535 U.S. Congressmen and women, so how am I supposed to know if I am within 1,000 feet of them?
Federal Firearms Licensees who follow federal rules are further penalized by states, such as California, which force them to jump through a maze of regulatory mayhem to receive guns from out of state. **
Why it’s dumb**
In addition to complying with federal regulations, a shipper must negotiate through the California Department of Justice to ship guns to dealers.
AMMO DU JOUR
A puzzling patchwork of regulations, restrictions and requirements make purchasing ammunition, say for a .50 caliber rifle in, say, California, a potentially criminal enterprise. New Jersey, for example, bans hollow point ammo. In some states and many local jurisdictions, it is legal to carry a 9 mm pistol with spare 18 round magazines, but two 5-shot snub noses is illegal. Under Massachusetts law, anyone who handles a cartridge case but doesn’t have a firearms license could, technically, be charged with a felony punishable by a two-year prison term. Confused yet? Why it’s dumb
A law-abiding adult citizen who can vote, drive a car and drink alcohol isn’t responsible enough to handle a cartridge case?
Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and launched in 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is used by Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) in 30 states, five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, to determine if a prospective buyer has a criminal record or isn’t otherwise eligible to make a purchase. The NICS computerized system is designed to handle 150 transactions a minute with individual checks taking less than 2 minutes. Why it’s dumb
The process is supposed to be instant — as its name implies. Yet, 12 states and the District of Columbia impose a “waiting period” of one day to two weeks between receiving the NCIS green light and actually purchasing and possessing the firearm.
SCATTERSHOT SHOTGUN REGULATIONS
A confusing array of regulations that vary state-by-state, jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction, make manipulating shotgun barrels a felony here, a misdemeanor there, and legal elsewhere. Under the National Firearms Act, it is illegal for a private citizen to possess a sawed-off smokeless powder shotgun with a barrel length less than 18 inches and an overall length less than 26 inches without a tax-stamped permit from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which requires a background check and a $200 fee for every transfer. Meanwhile, short-barreled muzzleloading blackpowder shotguns are legal by federal law and do not require a tax-stamped permit, but can be illegal in some states. Why it’s dumb
These regulations are crafted to stop criminals from concealing short-barreled shotguns while committing crimes but, of course, only affect law-abiding citizens.
CAMPUS GUN BANS
Nevada and Utah are the only states to allow unfettered concealed carry at all public colleges and universities. There are 21 states that expressly prohibit concealed carry on campuses even by persons with a valid concealed handgun license/permit. There are 15 Right-to-Carry states that leave the decision entirely to each college/university. In Oklahoma, students with valid permits can store their weapons in their cars parked on the state’s vocational college system’s 54 CareerTech campuses. In Texas, an individual college/university can ‘opt out’ of the state ban on firearms on campus and allow concealed carry. Proposed bills that prohibit banning the Second Amendment at college campuses were introduced in Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia, Indiana, Washington, Nevada, and Oklahoma during this year’s legislative sessions but all were gunned down, except in Nevada. Why it’s dumb
Public universities are state institutions and largely funded by state tax payers (including gun owners). So if a given state allows concealed carry, how can it be banned on a public campus?
GUN BUY-BACK PROGRAMS
Local law agencies pay people who turn unregistered guns. The idea is to get as many illegal guns off the street, no questions asked. But offering grandma a gift certificate at the Piggly Wiggly for grandpa’s gun, which hasn’t been fired since 1967, makes no sense and does not make society safer. Why it’s dumb
Providing a “no questions asked” market for stolen firearms could actually make society less safe and provides a great opportunity for people to game the system. In the 1990s a well-known artist named Tom Sachs built cheap homemade guns and sold them back to New York City’s buy-back program for up to $300 a piece.
#21) MANDATORY REPORTING LOST/STOLEN FIREARMS:
Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to the police or risk arrest, imprisonment, and/or fines. California, Minnesota, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania are also considering mandatory reporting laws. Why it’s dumb
Let’s say you keep an old shotgun at your hunting camp. During the winter your camp is broken into and your gun is stolen, but since you don’t live there, you don’t know about it and don’t report it. Weeks later that gun turns up at a police station and is still registered under your name. Police officer: “You know it’s illegal to not report a stolen firearm right?”
There are thousands of gun regulations and more and more get passed every year. Here’s a look at the 21 most outrageous, ridiculous and oppressive gun laws on the books.