The system of government devised by our founding fathers is pure genius. Rather than a single set of laws to govern the entire nation, each state has its own legislative authority. The result is 50 “laboratories of democracy” where citizens of a state and their elected representatives can choose their own path. This, of course, means that gun laws vary wildly from state to state. A firearm that is completely legal in Philadelphia can make you a felon if you cross the bridge into New Jersey.
State legislatures have been aptly described as the “farm team” for the U.S. Congress. A great number of the elected individuals who make up Senate and House of Representatives have previously served in a state legislature. Politicians from places such as California and New York do their best to spread their states’ gun control laws on the entire nation while those from more conservative and pro-gun states fight to prevent this from happening.
If the current polling is even remotely accurate, it is very likely that Democrats will win the trifecta of government in November: the Presidency, the House majority and the Senate majority. If that happens, there will be very little standing in the way of a flurry of gun control bills in the Congress. Some of those bills will undoubtedly be lifted from states’ own statues, making the entire nation emulate laws from places such as California and New York. We have identified five state gun laws that are likely to be the law of the land if Democrats take control of the Legislative and Executive branches of government.
1. One Gun a Month
In 1993, when Democrats controlled the state assembly and gun control was all the rage, Virginia imposed a law that restricted individuals from purchasing more than one handgun a month. The law’s justification was to reduce the number of guns purchased in Virginia that were being sold (illegally) in other states. This law was repealed in 2012 but re-enacted in 2020 with a clause that exempts those who hold a valid Virginia Concealed Handgun Permit. Similar laws exist in California, Maryland and New Jersey. Imposing such restrictions on the federal level will likely be a priority for gun control groups in the future.
2. Bans on “Assault Weapons”
California has one of the nation’s most-restrictive laws when it comes to so-called “assault weapons.” These firearms, which are broadly defined in the statute, are only legal if they were owned and registered prior to a certain date. These firearms cannot be distributed, transported, imported, kept for sale, offered for sale, given or lent. Various other states, most of them in the Northeast, have similar laws. The Biden campaign’s website endorses a ban very similar to California’s that would require America’s most-popular firearms to be registered with the government in the same manner as a machine gun or flamethrower.
3. Ammunition Restrictions
Seven U.S. states and the District of Columbia impose restrictions, over and above those found in federal law, on the purchase of ammunition. New York and California have specific point-of-sale background checks for ammo buyers and also keep detailed records of all ammunition purchases in state-run databases. Online or mail-order sales of ammunition are effectively banned in these states. Though a federal judge ruled in April that California’s law was unconstitutional, the fight continues. Joe Biden’s website lists a ban on online ammunition sales as a priority of his administration, meaning that California’s draconian rules may be coming for all of us.
On October 13, 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Crime Gun Identification Act, which requires all new models of semiautomatic pistols manufactured or sold in California be designed and equipped with microstamping technology. The idea behind microstamping is that each firearm will have an identifiable stamp (basically a serial number) that is transferred to the cartridge case when the gun is fired. Law enforcement officials could, theoretically, examine spent cases and know which handgun they were fired from. The problem with this technology is that it is both unproven and costly. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) “peer-reviewed studies about microstamping…establish it is an unreliable, patented, sole-sourced concept and one that can be easily defeated by criminals in mere seconds using common household items like a emery board, coarse sandpaper or a file. It would cost manufacturers millions to implement microstamping and raise the price of firearms by at least $200 per gun.” A $200-per-gun tax under the guise of “gun safety”? Congressional Democrats will line-up to vote for it.
5. Universal Background Checks
For years, we have heard the call to “close the gun show loophole” through the imposition of Universal Background Checks (UBCs). Sixteen states have some iteration of a UBC law on its books, and it has been proposed in Congress on countless occasions. These UBCs have broad support among the general public, especially when few details are offered. The fact is, UBCs for licensed gun dealers have been the law of the land for many years and the system works reasonably well. The problem is that some of the state laws extend the UBC concept to extremes in the name of reigning-in unregulated sales among individuals. Because of the wording used, merely handing a gun to a friend at the range or lending a relative a hunting rifle could be seen as criminal acts in some states. Even some Republicans, including Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, have endorsed UBCs at the federal level.