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Looking back at the history of gun control

Scotus Guns
Posted at 4:00 AM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 15:17:23-04

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.”

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is pictured walking across the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. at approximately the spot where he was shot by a hidden assassin. This picture was made, April 3, 1968, the day before the shooting, shortly after King arrived in Memphis. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly )

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.”

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., is joined by other members of the Senate Friday, June 27, 1997, on Capitol Hill, to comment of the Supreme Court decision on the Brady Bill. Joining Kennedy from left are: Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and Sen. Barbara Boxer,D-Ca. The high court ruled that the federal government cannot require state and local officials to do background checks on gun buyers as required under the Brady Bill. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette)

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.”

Bill Clinton, William Clinton, John Magaw
U.S. President Bill Clinton looks on as Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco Director John Magaw holds a AK-47 submachine gun at the White House in Washington on Monday, May 2, 1994 where the President addressed law enforcement officials on banning assault weapons. The AK-47 is not affected by this proposed ban due to being banned by existing legislation. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

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.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, right, with supporters Sens. John Warner, R-Va, center, and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, left, speaks about the reauthorization of the assault weapons ban, Monday, March 1, 2004, in Washington. A coalition of community leaders, including dozens of law enforcement officers and chiefs, today joined the senators in support of a measure to extend the assault weapons ban by 10 years. The Senate is set to vote on an amendment to reauthorize the ban on Tuesday, March 2. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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.

Scotus Guns
Pro rights guns supporters hold up their banners outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 26, 2008, after the court ruled that Americans have a constitutional right to keep guns in their homes for self-defense, the justices' first major pronouncement on gun control in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

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.

Gun Control Rally
People participate in the second March for Our Lives rally in support of gun control in front of the Washington Monument, Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Washington. The rally is a successor to the 2018 march organized by student protestors after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)