Legally Armed: V22N7

By Johanna Reeves, Esq.

The Impact of Mass Violence on Gun Control in the United States

The following article is taken from a Reeves & Dola (www.reevesdola.com) alert published on March 20, 2018, authors Johanna Reeves and Katherine Heubert.

In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a-changin’.” Again. The tragic Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida could very well be a tipping point in the push towards stricter gun control in the United States. History shows that gun control legislation is born out of acts of violence. And now, on the heels of another mass shooting, we are living in a defining moment in time for gun control as evidenced by the plethora of political and academic commentary, protests and a very active Congress.

A quick look at pending legislation in the Congress reveals that since January 2017, anywhere from 99 to more than 190 bills have been introduced (the number depends on whether the search term is “gun,” “firearm” or “weapon”). There has been a flurry of activity since the Stoneman Douglas shooting, and we will examine some of these bills. Before we look at the present, however, we want to look back at the history of our country’s major gun control laws. Understanding the history will surely lend valuable insight into the current legislative activity.


The first federal gun control legislation was the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA), which imposed a tax on the making and transfer of firearms defined by the Act, such as machineguns and short barrel rifles and shotguns. The legislation arose out of the gangland violence of the 20’s during Prohibition. “While the NFA was enacted by Congress as an exercise of its authority to tax, the NFA had an underlying purpose unrelated to revenue collection. As the legislative history of the law discloses, its underlying purpose was to curtail, if not prohibit, transactions in NFA firearms. Congress found these firearms to pose a significant crime problem because of their frequent use in crime, particularly the gangland crimes of that era such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” ATF National...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N7 (August 2018)
and was posted online on June 22, 2018


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