->''"A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."''
-->--'''The 1791 Second Amendment to the United States Constitution'''

The subject of much debate '''[[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgement (which we will not be contributing to)]]''' in the USA


[[folder: Gun Control]]

Short though it is, the Second Amendment may be one of the more contentious elements of the United States Constitution, the reason for this being that societal changes since the American Revolution have caused Americans to wonder what, precisely, the Founding Fathers meant by "[[AmbiguousSyntax a well-regulated militia]]."

In any case, the interpretation of this chunk of their constitution gives an ideological backbone to two causes: ''individual-armament'' and ''militia-armament'' (or 'pro-gun' and 'anti-gun'), [[TakeAThirdOption with plenty of other standpoints abounding]].

The ''individual-armament'' lobby emphasises, well, individual armament. The vast majority support individual armament for both protection from and as a deterrent to street-level crime. These people will point to stories and statistics of private citizens who thwarted robberies or other crimes by either shooting their assailant, or simply proving to the assailant that they were armed. They will also argue that not ''all'' gun owners use their weapons solely for defense; many use their guns for hunting or target shooting, popular pastimes in [[FlyoverCountry many states.]] There ''is'' a minority supporting individual gun rights in case of a second Civil War or some other post-apocalyptic eventuality; however, these people [[YoureInsane are not often taken seriously by the majority of gun rights supporters.]]

The ''militia-armament'' lobby emphasizes, well, the armament of the USA's professional military organizations, while restricting that of citizens. Those in this camp will point to instances where legal firearms were used in murders or suicides, particularly mass-murder. The ''militia-armament'' lobby believes that, unlike the rest of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment should be interpreted as guaranteeing a ''collective'' right and therefore the armament of the USA's various law-enforcement and defense organisations (Police, National Guard, Military) but not private citizens.

The concept of a citizen militia dates back to 12th century English [[TheCommonLaw common law]], and its requirement that royal subjects keep and bear arms for military duty. King Henry II, in the ''Assize of Arms'', obligated all freemen to bear arms for public defense. King Henry III required men between the ages of fifteen and fifty (including non-land owning subjects) to bear arms. The reason was that, in the absence of a regular army and police force, it was the duty of citizen militias to keep watch and ward at night to capture and confront suspicious persons.

No matter which side of the debate you lie on, the rights enshrined in the second ammendment are sort of the Straw the Broke the Camel's back and started the [[UsefulNotes RevolutionaryWar]]. British Troops received word that Colonial Forces were stockpiling arms and munitions in the towns of Lexington and Concord and promptly marched out to disarm the colonists. This had already been done in Boston, but the fact that most of the people in the town used such weapons for hunting for food AND militia defense against hostile Native American attacks on the city meant that the British were essentially leaving their own citizens to die in what was still largely Wilderness. While there were numerous other reasons to rebel against England and break from her, this was the was the start of the active shooting war. The seriousness of the amendment and it's meaning isn't a recent development in US politics... it was a big factor in why the country exists at all.

As of June 26, 2008, the [[AmericanCourts United States Supreme Court]] found that an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense exists within the Second Amendment, in the landmark case ''District of Columbia v. Heller''. About two years later, the Supreme Court ruled in ''[=McDonald=] v. Chicago'' that the right to bear arms is [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_of_the_Bill_of_Rights incorporated]] against the states, meaning that states (and, by extension, local governments, which were created by the states) cannot ban guns outright. However, Justice Alito's majority opinion clearly leaves leeway for governments to regulate access to firearms in their jurisdiction. This allows them to implement age restrictions and mandatory background checks to limit access they see fit, as well as the power to outright ban certain types or specific models of guns and related accessories.


[[folder: Background]]

The Second Amendment has its roots in the American Revolution. At the time, the United States had no standing army, being a colony of Great Britain, and so its soldiers would have to be drawn from the citizenry. While the exact interpretation of the amendment itself remains the subject [[RuleOfCautiousEditingJudgement of much debate]], it can be interpreted, at its most basic level, as arising out of the belief that at some point in the future, a militia would be needed, and that the best way to form one would be to ensure that the nation's citizens were familiar with firearms.


[[folder: Party Politics]]

As of the 2012 election, the issue has been more or less split roughly down party lines, with gun rights advocates gravitating toward the Republicans and gun control advocates gravitating toward the Democrats. However, within each party, differences in opinion remain—some Democrats support a nationwide gun ban, while others merely support heavier restrictions on existing weapons; likewise, some Republicans are in favor of stricter gun control laws, while others believe those already in existence should be relaxed.

Following mass shootings at San Bernardino, CA; Orlando, FL; and Newtown, CT; more Americans—conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat—are more likely to support stricter gun regulations. Opinions differ on what these regulations should cover. Suffice it to say, most Americans believe ''something'' should be done; however, the law of unintended consequences makes it difficult for them to agree on ''what.''


[[folder: Individual Safety]]

Many gun-rights advocates argue that gun ownership is useful to the deterrence of street-level crime: a 1994 study by the Department of Justice titled "Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms" estimated approximately 1.5 million defensive gun uses (that is to say, incidents where the presence of a firearm either successfully defended against crime or deterred a criminal from committing a crime, without the firearm in question having necessarily been used) occur per year. Gun-control groups, however, state that any such effects are outweighed by accidental deaths and greater availability of firearms to criminals. The validity of this study's methodology is also questioned by the gun-control faction, who point out that it obtained its figure of 1.5 million by asking a random sample of Americans if they had used a gun defensively, and then extrapolated the rate of positive responses to cover the whole country. This seems like a fairly robust methodology on practice, but it is subject to error because many respondents may have given incorrect responses, either by alleging they used a gun defensively when they did not, or by alleging that an unlawful incident where firearms were used was lawful. In at least some categories of crime reportable to the FBI, the number of reported defensive gun uses against that crime exceeds the number of times that crime was reported at all.


[[folder: What Is Legal]]

Understanding American gun legislation requires some familiarity with the federal structure of American government. Sovereign governmental power in the United States is divided between the federal government (i.e., the national government, based in Washington, D.C.), and the individual states. The federal government makes and enforces laws that apply across the country while the states make and enforce laws that apply only within their own territory (so long as those laws don't conflict with federal law, including in particular the U.S. Constitution). Gun laws exist at both levels. The ''Heller'' and ''[=McDonald=]'' Supreme Court decisions mentioned above established at least that the federal government and the states may not, given the Second Amendment, prohibit the possession of handguns inside the home for self-defense purposes. Whether the Second Amendment might limit either further is a matter of ongoing litigation through the courts that will eventually likely be resolved by future Supreme Court decisions.

The following describes categories of weapons generally defined under federal law, and how federal law treats said categories. The same terms may be, and very often are, incorporated by the individual states in their gun legislation.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE, but commonly referred to as simply the ATF) defines the categories of small arms as follows:

* Rifle: A firearm designed for use with 2 hands, with a rifled bore and either a shoulder stock or a pair of vertical grips. Minimum overall length 26 inches, barrel length 16 inches from muzzle to breech face.
** Short Barreled Rifle: As above, but failing one or both of the length minimums. Legal, with a $200 tax stamp.
* {{Shotgun|sAreJustBetter}}: Similar to Rifle, but with a smooth bore and a minimum barrel length of 18 inches.
** [[SawedOffShotgun Short Barreled Shotgun]]: Determined and taxed similarly to a Short Barreled Rifle. Sawing off a shotgun is considered "manufacture" of a short-barreled shotgun (which carries essentially identical legal requirements as to possess a short-barreled shotgun).
* [[{{Handguns}} Pistol]]: A weapon intended for use with one hand, with a rifled bore. No length restrictions.
* Other Weapon: A category that does not appear in law, but rather in ATF regulations, consisting solely of weapons that would otherwise qualify as "shotguns" (not short-barreled), but were designed with only a single pistol grip. The ATF ruled in 2010 that such weapons were not "firearms" as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934, though they were "firearms" under the Gun Control Act of 1968.
* Any Other Weapon: A firearm that does not fall into an above category. Not to be confused with "Other Weapon" above. The most common examples of this category are smoothbore pistols. Though it costs $200 for the initial tax stamp, it costs only $5 to transfer the weapon.
* [[MoreDakka Machine Gun]]: Any weapon that fires more than one bullet at a time, regardless of what other categories it falls into, or [[YouKeepUsingThatWord whether or not it fits the actual definition]] of "[[MisidentifiedWeapons machine gun]]." This includes fully automatic (constant fire), burst (firing a mechanically regulated set number of rounds) and selective (possessing 2 or more user selected firing modes). Originally phrased as one bullet "[[ExactWords per trigger pull]]", but was [[ObviousRulePatch changed]] after people started making fully-automatic weapons [[LoopholeAbuse with no triggers]]. Does not include crank powered weapons such as the Gatling Gun. Technically legal, and costs $200 to transfer, but no new tax stamps have been issued since 1986, and the ATF will often at least try to prosecute you for owning one regardless of its legality anyway.
* Destructive Device: A rifled bore weapon [[{{BFG}} greater than .50 caliber in bore]], [[StuffBlowingUp explosive devices]], and any weapon repurposed to launch an explosive device. Includes anti-tank weapons. Does not include flare guns unless you either acquire or make a grenade that will fit it, in which case both will be considered a Destructive Device when the charges are filed. The ATF has a "sporting use" exception that takes some large-caliber rifles out of this category, mostly those designed and used for hunting of large and dangerous game (typically African).
* Silencer: Any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for the use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler, any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication. $200 tax stamp.

Short-barreled rifles and shotguns, machine guns, destructive devices, and silencers are all regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934 ("NFA," as amended subsequently since). All such "NFA weapons," in addition to requiring the specific tax stamps described above, must be registered with the BATFE, generally require an extensive background check (usually taking many months to clear), and require specific permission from BATFE to be taken across state lines (the serial numbers of such weapons are registered with BATFE, and the registered owner's name and state of residency are also engraved on the NFA weapon). One trend, although it has come under additional scrutiny and regulation in recent years, is for NFA weapons to be owned by and registered to a legal trust, often known as an "NFA trust," which simplifies some of the paperwork and transfer requirements, and can allow for more than one individual (as a trustee) to possess an NFA-regulated item.

The potential criminal penalties for violations of the NFA by making, receiving, or possessing the above-described NFA-controlled items without the proper registration, paperwork, and tax stamps are severe, starting at up to ten years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine per offense. Just so that's clear: sawing off a shotgun or rifle barrel below the minimum uncontrolled legal length, making your own silencer, or even possessing parts that can convert a semiautomatic into a fully-automatic firearm, without specific permission from the federal government to do these things, can and very likely will get you sent to federal prison for up to ten years.

In 1994, the US Congress passed an assault weapons ban, a measure that limited the sale of larger capacity weapons. Valid for only 10 years, it expired in 2004 and was not renewed. In addition to banning some weapons by name (including the TEC-9 pistol, which had come to be associated with street gangs) and [[{{Nerf}} restricting magazine capacities]] to just ten rounds for new magazines sold after the law was passed, it introduced a list of features that a weapon could have only a certain number of, including heat shields, bayonet lugs, pistol grips and thumbhole stocks on rifles and magazines outside the grip on pistols. This law is generally considered a joke on both sides, largely for the same reason: it banned things that looked scary (like the heat shields, which are, in fact, safety features for the operator) [[AwesomeButImpractical regardless of actual lethality]]. In addition, most arms makers were able to {{retool}} their lines, trimming off enough listed features to stay in production (such as the deletion of the bayonet lug from Colt's post-'94 AR-15 rifles). This law only applied to semi-automatic weapons, even though the news networks often played footage from the North Hollywood Shootout[[note]]the shooters used fully-automatic AKM rifles smuggled from Mexico, so they were already violating existing gun laws[[/note]] while discussing it.

Civilians can own machine guns made before May 1986. However, due to high demand and a very small and increasingly worn-out supply, they are [[CrackIsCheaper more expensive than most cars]]. Obtaining one requires a substantial amount of paperwork, the same background check that purchasing a single shot rifle does, and a $200 tax stamp (this is not a permit, though it is mistaken for one a lot). The $200 tax stamp rule was started in the 1930s when $200 was cost-prohibitive to almost everybody. While the dollar amount has stayed the same since the '30s, owning a machine gun or assault rifle is still far too expensive for most Americans due to the aforementioned value of such weapons. BATFE also generally treats components that can be used to convert semiautomatic firearms into fully automatic firearms (e.g., "full-auto sears" for AR-15 rifles) as equivalent to machine guns (with the same registration, tax stamp, and date of manufacture requirements) if an individual possesses them and also happens to possess firearms which said components will fit. Federal courts routinely hand down criminal convictions for possession of unregistered machine guns of people who stumble into this particular trap.

State and local laws on what guns and related items may or may not be legally possessed within those jurisdictions vary considerably. At one extreme, some states have requirements no more stringent than the federal laws described above (though in such cases, state law often mirrors federal law, so a person in possession of illegal weapons could be charged with either a state or a federal crime, or both). At the other extreme, several heavily-Democratic "blue" states such as California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland have reams of complicated and restrictive gun control laws. These can include bans on "assault weapons" (usually defined as having only '''one''' of the "evil" features discussed with regards to the expired federal assault weapons ban above), bans on "high-capacity" magazines (usually over ten rounds), bans on some or all categories of NFA-described firearms (e.g., short-barreled rifles and shotguns or machine guns), bans on particular calibers (e.g., California bans all .50-caliber firearms), bans on particular types of ammunition (e.g., New Jersey bans hollowpoints), bans on mail-order or online sales of ammunition, registration and/or licensing of some categories of guns or of all guns, registration and/or licensing of ammunition purchases, rosters of supposedly safety-tested guns that are the only ones approved for sale in the state, waiting periods to purchase, background checks on all sales, requirements that guns sold in the state use technologies (such as "smart-gun" technology or "microstamping" that impresses cartridge cases with serial numbers) that aren't on the market yet (once those technologies come to market), and on, and on, and on. Most states fall somewhere in between but trend towards the more permissive side (e.g., control over particular categories of NFA-type weapons and laws requiring background checks on in-state transfers, but not a great deal more). Most states have some type of "pre-emption" law, either expressly provided in statute or found by the courts, that restricts local municipalities' abilities from enacting gun control laws that are more restrictive than the state in most particulars. Every state enforces its own laws on these matters, even against non-residents who don't take care to learn the local law, so it happens all too regularly that people traveling through particular states get arrested for things they didn't realize were illegal (and that weren't illegal where they live).


[[folder: Who Can Legally Own or Buy Guns]]

Generally, convicted felons, fugitives, persons "adjudicated as mentally defective" (meaning a court has ordered them committed to a mental hospital or found them not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity), convicted domestic abusers, drug addicts, illegal aliens, persons dishonorably discharged from the military, and persons subject to a restraining order from harassing, threatening, or stalking an intimate partner or their child are prohibited by federal law from possessing any type of firearm. Certain states impose some additional prohibitions that generally mirror these, but might have some minor differences (e.g., prohibiting persons convicted of "serious or violent offenses," or those held for mental health treatment but not adjudicated by a court), with different legal requirements for how such findings are made or challenged.

Given that the right to keep and bear arms is a recognized Constitutional right under the Second Amendment, depriving an individual of that right requires some degree of due process, whereby the individual has notice of the potential deprivation and opportunity to challenge the case against them in front of a fair tribunal, such as in court. This generally means that the categories of people legally barred from possessing a firearm have either already "had their day in court" (such as a criminal trial or hearing on a restraining order petition), or would have to be allowed it if they never got it and asked for it. This raises some potential issues of Constitutional law in the wake of calls to prohibit persons on the various post-9/11 "terrorist watchlists" or "no-fly" lists from purchasing guns, in that those are secret lists maintained by law enforcement or intelligence agencies, often on the basis of classified information that may not have been obtained with warrants under the Fourth Amendment, and would have to be presented in court (and made available to potential terrorist suspects) if such an individual were to challenge the prohibition. The Obama Administration raised some controversy by submitting individuals to the background check system who were identified in Social Security and Veterans Administration databases as having conservators appointed to handle their benefits, in that it was unclear whether those people had ever been "adjudicated as mentally defective," and that it may have amounted to deprivation of a Constitutional right by administrative fiat.

Most firearm sales in the United States are required to go through a background check. The 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (the so-called "Brady Bill") required all firearms purchases conducted by all gun dealers holding a Federal Firearms License (FFL, required to engage in the business of dealing guns in interstate commerce) to undergo a background check. In most cases, since 1998, these background checks have been conducted through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), though individual states are permitted by law to conduct their own background checks instead through their own state or local law enforcement agencies (which have access to the FBI's system as well as their own databases). NICS runs the name, date of birth, address, and other identifying information (such as Social Security number) of a potential purchaser through an FBI computer system that cross-references that information against known felons, fugitives, the mentally ill, or other individuals prohibited by law from possessing guns. The NICS system either approves the purchase, denies it (if a "hit" occurs on prohibiting information), or "delays" it if further investigation by the FBI is needed, in which case the FBI has up to three business days to investigate further and issue an approval or a denial. If the FBI doesn't follow up within the three business days, the dealer may complete the sale after three business days, but is not required to, and many won't. If a gun is transferred this way and the background check later comes back denied, the case gets sent to BATFE to get a warrant and take the gun back.

There is regular political controversy over the so-called "gun-show loophole," through which guns supposedly regularly evade background checks at gun shows. This particular loophole is more accurately called the "private-party loophole," and it ultimately arises out of potential limitations on Congress' authority imposed by the Constitution. The federal background check law applies only to holders of Federal Firearms Licenses ([=FFLs=]), which are required by federal law to be kept by persons who regularly "engage in the business" of buying or selling firearms in interstate commerce.[[note]]What is defined as "engaging in the business" is determined under BATFE regulations, which typically require that someone be engaged in a "regular course of trade or business" with the purpose of "livelihood income and profit." So somebody selling off their own gun collection probably wouldn't be covered.[[/note]] Both the legal requirement to have an FFL and the subsidiary requirement to conduct background checks on sales are only authorized, like almost all federal legislation, from Congress' explicit Constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce.[[note]] U.S. Const., Art. I; § 8, cl. 2.[[/note]] Congress did not take the additional step of trying to impose a nationwide background check requirement on all firearms transfers, even if they occurred purely between residents of the same state (and thus, occurring only in 'intrastate', rather than 'interstate' commerce). Congress could try to do so, but it would be sure to set up a Commerce Clause challenge in the federal courts, and it is unclear how the Supreme Court would rule on the question. Regardless, some states already require every firearms transfer, even if it is between private parties, to undergo a background check and/or be processed through a licensed dealer, and gun shows often require the same as a matter of policy, and provide an FFL dealer onsite to process background check transactions throughout the show.

One of the more contentious areas in the digital age arises from online and gun show sales, due to concerns over how weapons sold in such a way could be obtained by criminals, due to not requiring a background check[[note]]Vendors without a Federal Firearms License can still sell at these venues (thus skirting the background check required for those with an FFL) provided that the purchaser lives in the same state and shows valid ID.[[/note]] A few investigative reports have shown that existing standards are sometimes not enforced, as vendors sometimes take a buyer at their word rather than double-checking the license, or sell a gun to someone that doesn't live within the same state via online trading. In a few cases, this LoopholeAbuse [[http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/17/us/seeking-gun-or-selling-one-web-is-a-land-of-few-rules.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 allowed those that were legally barred from gun ownership to get one from an unlicensed vendor]], with one investigation done by the City of New York [[http://www.nyc.gov/html/cjc/downloads/pdf/nyc_pointclickfire.pdf finding that 77 out of 125 vendors would sell to]] those who probably couldn't pass a background check.

Online retailers, meanwhile, conduct the sale and transaction online but, contrary to the popular and oft-repeated misconception, they do '''not''' ship firearms directly to an unlicensed individual's doorstep (those who continue to make claims to the contrary [[SnipeHunt are encouraged to find and name a commercial website that will]]). Direct, mail-order gun sales are not only illegal, but they have been since ''1968'', with the passage of the Gun Control Act. The firearm may only be delivered to a Federal Firearms License holder --most commonly a brick & mortar gun dealer-- who then must conduct a proper background check before the gun can be transferred to the buyer. The same laws apply to private sellers on auction sites such as [=GunBroker=], where the seller (who must be a non-prohibited person) does not require an FFL to ship a firearm, but the recipient must still be an authorized FFL holder to take delivery. Online classified services, meanwhile, are not restricted by law in most states, but frequently have internal policies that prohibit listings for firearms to shield themselves from criminal and civil liability (Craigslist, for example, forbids any ads for guns, gun parts or ammunition).

Note that the weapon's completed receiver (the frame that all other parts of the gun attach to) is the only portion legally defined as a "firearm," so one existing loophole of a sort for online sales is to purchase a partially-milled receiver (which doesn't require an FFL to ship because it's wholly inoperable in that state), finish the machining work to make it functional, and assemble a complete weapon from aftermarket or original parts. However, the relatively high expense and technical know-how needed for this workaround keeps it from being an especially tempting choice to all but [[TheMafia the most organized]] criminal elements.


[[folder: Right to Carry]]

All states have concealed-carry laws, allowing a person to carry a weapon in a concealed holster with a permit, at least on the books. The ease of obtaining these permits varies widely. The different legal carry regimes generally break down as follows:

* "Constitutional carry" (unpermitted carry): No permit required. Anyone who is legally entitled to possess a firearm may carry it. Some states allow this only for their own residents, most allow it for non-residents as well. Twelve states as of April 2017 use this system: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho (state residents only), Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota (state residents only, concealed only), Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming (state residents only). These states (except Vermont) nonetheless still issue permits on a shall-issue basis, which have benefits (can carry in more places, expedites the purchase process, and allows for carry in some other states (reciprocity)).

* "Shall-issue": This is the majority rule, followed by 40 states (including the "Constitutional carry" states that issue permits) plus Guam. Permits are issued as a matter of right to anyone who is legally permitted to possess a firearm and fulfills the administrative requirements to get one, and the authorities do not have discretion to deny issuance of a permit. Some states will issue permits to non-residents, some will not, and some are shall-issue to residents but may-issue to non-residents.[[note]]E.g., Oregon is a shall-issue state for its own residents but may-issue for non-residents; many Oregon sheriffs, who administer the actual process, generally will issue to residents of neighboring states who have regular business in Oregon.[[/note]] The administrative requirements vary widely by state, but include an application, background check, fingerprinting, payment of fees, and usually some documentation of approved firearms training, whether written or practical.[[note]]Training requirements can vary from being as simple as having taken a free online course or demonstrating prior military service to being as stringent as documenting many hours of supervised in-person instruction on the range by an approved instructor, depending on the state.[[/note]] Some states will issue through the mail to anyone, including non-residents, who sends in an application, fingerprint card, and a check and who passes the background check, others require an in-person application.

* "May-issue": The minority rule, officially followed by nine states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York,[[note]]New York City has its own, considerably more restrictive ownership and carry laws separate from the rest of the state, administered by the NYPD[[/note]] New Jersey, and Rhode Island), the District of Columbia, and also Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and on US military installations and Native American reservations. Permits are only granted at the discretion of the authorities, and often many legal and procedural hurdles have to be jumped over to acquire a permit, often determined by the local authorities.[[note]]Several California county sheriffs, for example, have required applicants to carry a certain amount of insurance or submit to examination by a psychiatrist chosen by the sheriff.[[/note]]

* No-issue: No permits are issued to carry at all. In theory, this is only the rule in the territories of American Samoa and the Northern Marianas Islands. In reality, this is the de facto rule in the majority of the "may-issue" states and territories listed above for most of the public: permits are only available, if at all, to people with the right political connections.

** In California, how difficult it is to get a permit depends on which city or county you live in, as they are issued at the discretion of politically-appointed municipal police chiefs or county sheriffs in unincorporated areas.[[note]] Elected sheriffs mostly tend to be more fair than police chiefs, who toe the party line of the (usually liberal) city government that appointed them, or at the very least they have a greater need to cultivate favor among potential voters and campaign donors.[[/note]]In the Los Angeles area or the Bay Area, where most of the state's population lives, unless you are rich, powerful, or know the right people, a concealed carry permit is out of the question. [[note]]As of 2015, Los Angeles County, population 10 million, had fewer than 500 concealed carry permits (less than 1 for every 20,000 people). San Francisco, population 870,000, had ''4'' (less than 1 for every 200,000 people). However, certain other counties, such as Sacramento County, are very nearly "shall-issue" in practice, due to tolerant local sheriffs.[[/note]] This is the subject of an ongoing court battle, as the "May-Issue" policy essentially deprives you of a right without due process.

* LEOSA: Technically not a state policy, LEOSA (the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act) is a federal law originally passed in 2004 that entitles any currently serving or retired (after ten or more years of service and keeping current with firearms qualification in the past year) law enforcement officer, whether federal, state, local, or military, to carry concealed anywhere in the United States, even off-duty and on their own time, with very few exceptions. This essentially bypasses almost all state and local limitations on carrying, including local magazine and ammunition restrictions.

The history of concealed carry in the US has shifted dramatically since the 1980s. In 1986, there were only eight shall-issue states (plus Vermont, the original "Constitutional carry" state), while the rest of the country was either may-issue or no-issue.[[note]]This included the entire South with the exception of Alabama, even Texas was a no-issue state until 1995! It may be noted however that many if not most gun control laws in the United States historically were driven by racial fears.[[/note]] Within 25 years, by 2011, that ratio had completely reversed, with only nine may-issue states left. Five years later, there were more "Constitutional carry" states than may-issue states. Laws regarding concealed carry have been and continue to be in rapid flux and development, and constitute a shifting patchwork of approaches across the states.

Beyond the broad categories listed above, each state has its own particular laws concerning carrying a weapon. In many, open carry is permitted as well as concealed carry; in others (such as Florida), only concealed carry is allowed, and open carry will get you arrested for brandishing a weapon or a similar charge. In still others, open carry requires no permit but concealed carry does. Every state though has laws against brandishing, or in some cases against "going armed to the terror of the public," that make illegal displaying weapons with the intent to threaten people. Also, openly displaying firearms if you're in a local community where that isn't common or appreciated, even if it may be technically legal, is very likely to lead to "person with gun" 911 calls to the police, which have the potential to end badly.

Each state has a list of particular locations where carrying even with a permit is prohibited, some of which can be quite long and complicated.[[note]]To cite one extreme, Illinois, technically a "shall-issue" state, prohibits carrying on public transportation, at any bar or restaurant that gets more than half its revenue from the sale of alcohol, at any public gathering or special event that requires a permit, at any place where alcohol is sold for special events, on private property where the owner has chosen not to allow it, at any school, college, university, preschool, daycare facility, government building, courthouse, prison, jail, detention facility, hospital, playground, park, Cook County Forest Preserve area, sports stadium or arena, amusement park, riverboat casino, off-track betting facility, library, zoo, museum, airport, nuclear facility, or place where firearms are prohibited under federal law. Whew![[/note]] Expect all to prohibit carrying into courthouses, jails, statehouses, or other sensitive locations. Some will prohibit carrying in bars and alcohol service areas of restaurants where minors are prohibited, some will allow it but will prohibit drinking, some (mostly in the South) will prohibit carrying into churches. Some will prohibit carrying anywhere a property owner has posted a "No Guns" sign, others won't make that technically illegal but will arrest you for trespassing if the owner tells you to leave and you don't. Some will require you to disclose if you are carrying in encounters with law enforcement officers, some will not (though it's usually a healthy idea to let them know rather than having them find out on their own that they're dealing with an armed individual). In any state, violating these laws, or being charged with most crimes other than a traffic infraction, or being caught under the influence of alcohol or drugs while you're carrying, will almost certainly result in your permit being revoked. Carrying onto most federal government property, including even a local post office, is still illegal, even with a state carry permit.[[note]]It's legal to carry into many national parks, even though they're technically federal land (especially given that many hunt in those parks), but it's usually ''illegal'' to go into any structure in a national park armed, because they're considered "federal facilities."[[/note]] Also, the federal Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 makes carrying within 1,000 feet of a primary or secondary school without a carry permit issued by the state where the school is located a federal crime with a five-year sentence.[[note]]Reciprocity with an out-of-state permit does ''not'' apply in this case, the law was drafted before the current trend for concealed carry started and it hasn't been fixed. It's effectively impossible to traverse most metropolitan areas without coming within 1,000 feet of a school.[[/note]]

[[AC: Concealed Carry Across State Lines and Reciprocity]]

Most states allow at least some residents of other states to carry as well under particular circumstances. Most "Constitutional carry" states allow anyone who can legally possess to carry, regardless of state of residency, without a permit. Some states that require a permit will recognize a permit issued by any state. Some will only recognize their own permits, but will issue them to non-residents as well as residents. The restrictive may-issue states (except for Delaware) generally do not recognize any other state permits whatsoever.

The majority of states have "reciprocity" agreements with some other states, under which those states have mutually agreed to recognize each others' carry permits for holders traveling between those states. In such cases, these states recognize some out-of-state permits, but not all of them. Nationwide, there is utterly no rhyme or reason to this system as it currently exists, it's been built up entirely out of a hodgepodge of different state laws and agreements between different states over the years.[[note]] As examples, Pennsylvania only recognizes out of state permits from two of its six neighboring states — Ohio and West Virginia — but also recognize permits from a lot of other states as far away as Montana and Texas, each nearly 1,500 miles away. Delaware doesn't recognize permits from any of its neighboring states at all but does recognize ones from states including Arizona, roughly 2,000 miles away.[[/note]] Some states have reciprocity agreements with many other states, some with only a few. Some state permits that have particularly broad reciprocity benefits, honored in many states, and that are readily issued to non-residents are frequently sought out, somewhat like a "flag of convenience," by concealed carriers who travel or expect to travel, especially if their home states have worse or no reciprocity. This is especially so if the issuing state has minimal application requirements (for example, if they accept applications and issue permits by mail to out-of-staters). Some states will not recognize out-of-state permits issued to non-residents of the issuing state.

This system is so complicated though that there are interactive mobile apps and websites to help figure out which permits allow carry in which states (without potentially going to jail), and even these have to be checked and updated frequently as laws change. If you're going to travel with a gun, it's a very good idea to check carefully and make sure the permits you do have are honored wherever you're going.

Under current law, it's impossible for anyone (other than a current or former police officer who qualifies under LEOSA, see above) to be legally entitled to carry in all 50 states as a private citizen, because California and Colorado only issue permits to their own residents and neither recognizes each others' permits nor any other states' non-resident permits. It's also effectively impossible for most people to be permitted to carry in more than about 40 or so states at a time, due to the limits of state reciprocity arrangements and the complicated individual requirements and broad local discretion exercised in may-issue states, unless they have the time, resources, and desire to schmooze a lot of local officials in different states.


[[folder: Lobbies]]

'''National Rifle Association (NRA)''' and '''Other Gun Rights Advocates'''

The main gun lobby is the National Rifle Association's Institute For Legislative Action. Not only do they spend large amounts of money supporting politicians and lobbying, but the NRA itself provides legal support, firearms safety training, and sponsors marksmanship tournaments throughout the United States. In some instances, NRA-certified instructors have an official status in gun training and hunting; most states that license the carrying of concealed weapons specifically recognize NRA instructors by statute.

While they officially state their primary purpose is to support game hunters, target shooters, gun collectors, and the defense of lawful citizens from crime, they tend to take a hard line against gun control measures, most notably starting after [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Rifle_Association#1934_-_present the "Revolution in Cincinnati" in 1977]]. In the past, the NRA have resisted attempts to ban machine guns, assault weapons, and armor-piercing ammunition. Their resistance to background checks and licensing for gun owners has also attracted some controversy, as well as the sources of their funding having ties to gun manufacturers themselves. On the other hand, the NRA supported the current background check system, the NICS, and seldom lobbies against legislation to increase penalties for preexisting crimes.

While the NRA is the predominate supporter of lawful gun usage, it's not the only one in the United States. Other noteworthy groups include the Pink Pistols, who focus on self-defense for [[QueerAsTropes GLBT individuals]], the Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, and the Gun Owners of America; the latter two tend to be more absolutist on the matter of gun control than the NRA. The Second Amendment Foundation and Law Enforcement Alliance of America are generally, although not always, considered more moderate supporters of gun owners' rights.

'''Joyce Foundation''' and '''Other Gun Control Advocates'''

American gun control advocates do not really have a single unified public face like the NRA does. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was particularly powerful during the early-mid '90s, but now is primarily a force inside major cities, while the Violence Policy Center and American Hunters and Shooters Association tend to have stronger showings in more suburban or rural areas. General points of focus are the ban of assault weapons, handguns, and some types of ammunition, in addition to raising taxes on guns and ammunition, requiring longer waiting periods or police permission for gun ownership, and limiting sales of firearms.

The most general and noteworthy group would be the Joyce Foundation; it does not lobby personally, but is a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joyce_Foundation#Organizations_funded_by_the_Joyce_Foundation major source of funding for a lot of different gun control advocates]], ranging from groups as small as blogs to as large as the Violence Policy Center.

Gun control advocates have garnered criticism-- beyond questions of constitutionality, critics often bring up the fact that anyone already willing to commit murder (one of if not the most severe class A felony on the books and with a max sentence of life imprisonment or death) is hardly likely to be deterred by a charge of unlawful firearms possession (a class C felony with a max sentence of 10 years), claim that the gun laws advocated by these groups punish the innocent without blocking the criminally inclined, and that the facts and terms used by gun control advocates are misleading at best and more likely entirely false. In short, "If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns". These critics also point out that, unlike Australia [[note]] which many gun control advocates point to as a success story [[/note]], America is not sealocked; therefore, if a nationwide gun ban were implemented, those willing to break the law could obtain their guns illegally from Mexico.
Another criticism of gun control advocates is that ''many'' of the most vocal critics of the 2nd Amendment and strident supporters for strict gun control are wealthy businessmen, politicians, and celebrities...who never go anywhere without armed bodyguards.