Gun control is one of the most debated political topics right now, but before we can take a look at where we’re going or even how we got here, we have to take a look back at how it all started — and that requires a dive into the recent history books.
The 1960s – a decade full of unrest, violence, and change. The American people demanded action, but it wasn’t so simple.
“It was controversial at the time, the same way gun control is controversial now,” explains Stefani Lindquist an attorney and professor at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Lindquist is also a published author as a constitutional law and U.S. Supreme Court expert.
Lindquist explains no matter the decade, no matter the tragedy, getting everyone to agree on what should be done about guns has always been a challenge.
“Gun control has always been controversial. It really has, at least in the 20th century, and that’s why efforts are made immediately after a tragedy.”
In 1968, just months after Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Gun Control Act of 1968. It created stricter license requirements, more regulations on the firearms industry, and banned firearms from being sold to felons.
Fast forward to 1993, The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act would put background checks in the spotlight.
“A licensed dealer under the Brady Law that was enacted in 1993 would have to conduct a background check for individuals buying these weapons.”
The very next year, President Bill Clinton would sign an assault weapons ban into law, which was part of a larger piece of legislation.
“In 1994, the assault weapons ban that was enacted prohibited for ten years the sale and possession of these high-capacity assault weapons.”
But in 2004, exactly a decade later, the ban expired, thanks to what is known as a “sunset provision.”
“These sunset provisions are ways legislators can compromise with the opposition and they say we will enact this legislation, but we won’t put it into place permanently.”
Other key milestones over the past half-century of gun control include the U.S. Supreme Court case D.C. v. Heller in 2008. Lindquist says in this case, our nation’s High Court would recognize an individual’s second amendment rights outside “the militia” you hear mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.
In 2010, there would be a continuation with McDonald v. City of Chicago where SCOTUS would apply the Heller ruling to state and local governments also.
And this leads to where we are today, with lawmakers remaining divided on the hot topics of gun control and how to curb gun violence.