Congress continues to debate the efficacy and constitutionality of federal regulation of firearms and ammunition. Since 1934, various federal laws have been enacted to promote such regulation. The two most significant federal statutes controlling firearms held by civilians are the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. The 1934 Act established strict registration requirements and a transfer tax on machine guns and short-barreled long guns. The 1968 Act prohibits mail-order and interstate sales of firearms, prohibits transfers to minors and other prohibited persons, and sets forth penalties and licensing requirements for manufacturers, importers, and dealers. Gun control advocates argue that federal regulation of firearms curbs access by criminals, juveniles, and other "high-risk" individuals. Some seek broad policy changes such as near-prohibition of non-police handgun ownership or the registration of all firearm owners or firearms. Others advocate less comprehensive policies that they maintain would not impede ownership and legitimate firearm transfers. Opposition to federal controls is strong. While several dozen gun control-related proposals are likely to be introduced in the 108th Congress that represent a variety of positions on federal regulation of firearms, legislative debate and action may develop in the following issue areas: (1) extending, making permanent, or allowing to expire, the semiautomatic assault weapons ban, which sunsets on September 13, 2004; (2) expanding electronic access to disqualifying records under the Brady criminal background check system; (3) expanding federally-supported ballistic imaging to enhance law enforcement efforts; and (4) further regulating firearm transfers at gun shows.
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB10112