US gun laws vary widely

2012-12-15 17:09

Washington - The horrific shooting that has left 20 young children and six adults dead in rural Connecticut revived the familiar US gun law debate, where restrictions vary widely between different states.

And even the federal government regulates "very, very little," noted Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Almost all the injuries were fatal at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday in the small town of Newtown, indicating that once targeted, there was rarely any chance of escape, and that the gunman was unusually accurate or methodical in his fire.

The so-called Brady law, signed into law by president Bill Clinton in 1993, requires federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States. It is intended to detect any potential red flags in an individual's criminal and mental health history.

But 40 percent of arms sales are not affected by the law, because they take place between private individuals, including through websites, or at gun show stands. Such sales are not regulated by the federal government.

The law concerns only federally licensed dealers, manufacturers or importers, with a few exceptions.

And the National Instant Criminal Background Check System maintained by the FBI has its own loopholes.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns - an organisation of city mayors seeking tougher federal, state and local gun regulation - found that millions of files on people with mental health issues were not included in the database.

US media reported that the shooter, believed to be Adam Lanza, 20, had a history of mental illness.

And although the two handguns and semi-automatic rifle found at the scene appeared to be legally purchased by his mother, advocates said a more exhaustive database could help prevent people like Lanza from obtaining such weapons.

In another example, Jared Loughner, who killed six people and seriously wounded then-representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in January 2011, obtained the greenlight from the background check system before purchasing his guns.

Loughner was cleared even though he was suspended from school for misconduct and had a history of drug use.

Attempts to track gun purchases are further complicated by the long borders the US shares with Canada to the north and, especially, with Mexico to the south.

Even within the 50 US states, the variations in gun laws can make it easier for people to evade restrictions.

Thirteen states do not consult background checks compiled outside the vendors' state. Any criminal history in another state or at the federal level would thus be left out.

"Because our borders are porous, even if a state has very strict laws, it's usually very easy to go to another state to get guns," Thomas explained.

Most laws restricting gun sales take place at the state level.

California has the most restrictions, with federal background checks on all gun sales, even private ones. Assault weapons and sniper rifles are also banned and buyers can only purchase one gun per month.

Buyers must also first obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate, which requires them to take and pass a written test on handgun safety.

Thomas credits the measures with a "big reduction" in gun violence over the past 20 years in California.

In Connecticut, where Friday's shooting took place, there is a ban on owning or transferring assault weapons, such as the Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine rifle found on the scene, according to The New York Times.

The other two weapons used by the shooter, a Glock pistol and a Sig Sauer rifle, both require a certificate before being purchased.

From 1994 to 2004, a federal law banned the production and sale of assault weapons, but Congress failed to renew the text.

And the very definition of assault weapons is a matter of debate.

California, for example, lists certain characteristics, such as a stabiliser and high-capacity magazines that allow the guns to rapidly fire multiple rounds.

But manufacturers "will always try and find ways around it," Thomas warned.

Read more on:    us  |  us school shooting  |  gun control
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
21 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Saturday Cape Town - 06:51 AM
    Road name: Rhodes Drive
    ROAD CLOSED between Constantia Nek and the M3 Highway until 13:00
  • Saturday Cape Town - 06:47 AM
    Road name: M3 Southbound
    ROAD CLOSED between Hospital Bend and Rhodes Avenue until 8 am
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

DSTV Mobile iDrifta

The iDrifta is a plug and play mobile DVB-H receiver...

From R445.23

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you feel...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.