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Guns kill. They are not toys for juveniles to play with. They are dangerous. They put you and those around you at risk if you lack the necessary wisdom and sense of discretion to handle them. It’s for this reason and this reason only that legislation has been framed to control the use of firearms. If you are a serious enthusiast, you would strictly follow the laws, protocols and procedures surrounding firearms. Your own safety depends upon it as well as the safety of those around you. Knowledge is power. Know the law.
Begin with age. The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), which regulates firearms at the federal level, requires that citizens and legal residents must be at least 18 years of age to purchase shotguns or rifles and ammunition. All other firearms — handguns, for example — can only be sold to people 21 and older. State or local officials may implement higher age restrictions but are not allowed to lower the federal minimum.
Who can and cannot buy or possess firearms? Fugitives, people deemed a danger to society and patients involuntarily committed to mental institutions are among those who may not purchase firearms. People with prior felony convictions that include a prison sentence exceeding one year, or misdemeanours carrying sentences of more than two years, are also prohibited from purchasing firearms. Federal law also blocks the sale of guns to people who have been found guilty of unlawfully possessing or using controlled substances within the past year. This includes marijuana, which, though legalized in many US states, remains illegal under federal law. Restrictions also apply to persons who have been issued restraining orders by courts to prevent harassment, stalking or threatening; people who have renounced their citizenship; dishonourably discharged military personnel; unauthorized migrants; and people temporarily visiting the US on nonimmigrant visas, for example as tourists.
Who can sell firearms? Like handgun owners, dealers interested in obtaining a Federal Firearms License (FFL) must be at least 21 years of age. They must have premises for conducting business and must alert a local law enforcement official at the time of submitting their applications to the federal bureau that regulates firearms. Just like gun owners, they must fulfil the same criteria regarding their history of prior convictions and mental state. The license fee costs $200 for the initial three-year period and $90 for each subsequent three-year-long renewal. Selling firearms online also falls under these regulations. Although the purchase may be paid for online, the gun itself must be shipped to a registered FFL holder, who then conducts the necessary background check before handing the firearm over to its owner.
Is a background check necessary to purchase a firearm? Yes. The amendment to the 1968 Gun Control Act — known as the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 — requires holders of FFLs to conduct a background check. Potential firearm purchasers fill out a federal form known as the ATF 4473, which checks for prior convictions and other red flags. FFL holders then use the information provided on the form in the background check. States may decide whether the background check is carried out solely by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) or a combination of the NICS and state agency information. Roughly 30 states rely solely on the NICS.
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