Las Vegas shooting incident: Second amendment to constitution, different state-wide rules determine US gun laws

By FP Staff

A day after a lone shooter Stephen Paddock killed 59 people at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, in what is called the worst gun-related violence in US history, the ongoing debate on gun control has been reignited. While condemning Monday's attack, US president Donald Trump said that it is "premature" to talk about introducing tougher gun control laws.

While Trump's predecessor Barack Obama tried to bring in tougher gun control laws,  it is easier said than done, and there is a primary reason for it.

The right to hold guns is as old as the American State itself. In 1791, the United States Congress passed the second amendment to the Constitution. The amendment allowed every citizen to bear arms and ammunition. Gun culture is so deep-rooted in US that at least 74 percent of Americans believe holding a gun is essential to their sense of freedom.

Laws differ from state to state

However, being a truly federal state, rules governing arms and ammunition differ from state to state.

Nevada, the state where the shootout took place, has one of the most relaxed gun laws in the United States. Nevada's laws are so liberal that a citizen does not even need to have a license to bear arms. The state also does not limit the number of guns a person can possess.

On the other hand, California is known to have some of the strictest laws on guns in the United States. In California, the biggest state in the US, a person needs to pass a universal background check and wait for at least 10 days before he could lay his hands on his guns. Moreover, a person needs to pass a written safety test before buying a gun.

A scene from the Mandalay Bay site at Las Vegas. AP

Strictest and easiest place to buy a gun

If ranked on a scale of strictest to the loosest gun control laws, California, Connecticut and New Jersey are some of the strictest place to procure a gun.

On the other hand, states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Arizona come on the lower end of gun control laws, where one can buy a firearm online without undergoing a background check.

Three states prohibit carrying of firearms openly in public — California, Florida and Illinois — as well as the District of Columbia. Notably, 31 states allow open carry, while 15 others require a license for doing so. Many states allow their citizens to bear arms, although in a concealed manner.

In the US, it is legal to purchase three types of guns: handguns, shotguns and rifles, The Atlantic article noted.

However, looking at its potential to inflict large-scale damage, the US in the 80s, regulated automatic weapons.

Loopholes in the law

In 1993, the Brady law came into effect, which required federal arms dealers to do background checks before selling firearms. However, this law has been "gun law loophole", as a large number of dealers do not conduct background checks before selling their firearms. In addition, there are those dealers who do not have a federal license but yet sell firearms.

Nevertheless, in 2004, the US law to manufacture certain semi-automatic weapons like AK 47s expired. With this, loopholes in the federal law only increased.

While the federal legislation in 1986 made the sale of fully automatic weapons illegal, there is always a chance to convert a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic weapon. Reports now suggest that Paddock may have used the same method to turn his semi-automatic weapon into an automatic one.

Australia an example to follow for the US?

After the latest instance of mass shooting, Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop said that her country is ready to help the US in formulating a stricter gun control policy.

“Under John Howard, we implemented the national firearms agreement — this prohibited semiautomatic and automatic weapons. We had that national gun buyback scheme. We can share our experience,” Bishop was quoted by The Daily Telegraph as saying.

 

With inputs from AFP