In the United States, access to guns is controlled by law under several federal statutes. These laws regulate the manufacture, trade, possession, transfer, record keeping, transport, and destruction of firearms, ammunition, and firearms accessories. They are enforced by state agencies and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). In addition to federal gun laws, all state governments and some local governments have laws that regulate firearms. The right to keep and bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
In the wake of the shootings, which together left 18 people dead, President Joe Biden renewed calls for stronger gun laws including banning assault weapons and expanding background checks. Many Republicans oppose the measures, and the National Rifle Association blasted the discussions as a rush to “politicize this horrific situation.”
The House passed two bills Thursday that would tighten gun sales regulations, sending the measures to a divided Senate.
H.R. 8 would expand background checks on individuals seeking to purchase or transfer firearms, and the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 would close the “Charleston loophole,” a gap in federal law that lets gun sales proceed without a completed background check if three businesses days have passed.
“This bill is a critical step toward preventing gun violence and saving lives,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who sponsored H.R. 8, said before its passage.
That bill, titled the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, passed 227-203. It received eight Republican votes, and one Democrat voted against it. In 2019, the bill was passed with eight votes from Republicans, five of whom cosponsored the package.