Gun Control


ANNCR: The Gun Control Act – on Today's Congressional Moment.

The debate over gun control in America has been ongoing and intense for many years — with proponents seeking to reduce gun–related injuries and curtail criminal activity, and opponents sighting second–amendment rights and the need to defend themselves.

Despite the complexities of differing opinions, sometimes there's been enough agreement for legislation to pass Congress.

The first major gun control act was passed by Congress in 1934, regulating the sale of fully–automatic fire arms, like machine guns, after an assassination attempt on President-elect Franklin Roosevelt and a series of organized crime killings. In 1938, a further restriction required licenses for gun dealers, and prohibited gun sales to people who had committed a violent felony.

The 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy — which was committed with a mail–order rifle — and the subsequent assassinations of Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968, led Congress to pass additional legislation. The Gun Control Act of 1968 added many restrictions on who could import, buy, and sell guns, and established harsher penalties for those using a gun in the commission of a federal crime.

The debate on gun control remains an intense one across the country today — making this a particularly difficult issue to tackle.

STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress website at