50 Years of Federal Gun Control: The 1968 Gun Control Act

by | Oct 23, 2018 | Headline News | 29 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    This article was originally published by José Niño at the Mises Institute

    Today marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968. The GCA is the main federal law that governs interstate commerce of firearms in the United States. Specifically, the GCA prohibits firearms commerce across state lines except between licensed manufactures, dealers, and importers. Under the GCA, any individual or company that wants to partake in commercial activity dealing with the manufacture or importation of firearms and ammunition, or the interstate and intrastate sale of firearms must possess a Federal Firearms License (FFL).

    Procedural jargon notwithstanding, the enactment of 1968 GCA was a watershed moment in U.S. politics. It was the first piece of legislation that put the gun control debate on the map.

    Political Context of the GCA

    It should be noted that the GCA was not the first piece of gun control passed at the federal level. In 1934, president Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the National Firearms Act of 1934 into law. The first comprehensive gun law at the federal level, the NFA taxed and mandated registration of certain firearms such as machine guns, sawed-off rifles, and sawed-off shotguns. This law was passed under the pretext of addressing mob-style violence during Prohibition. But careful review of the New Deal era shows how the NFA was just another piece of FDR’s unprecedented social engineering program.

    This NFA was followed up by the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, which created a precursor to the 1968 GCA’s FFL system. Despite the government’s encroachments on gun rights, the federal government stayed away from further regulation for the next three decades.

    Once the 1960s arrived, gun politics reverted back to its interventionist roots. The assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King caused federal policymakers to rethink gun policy. In the JFK case, considerable uproar was made about how his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was able to acquire his firearm via mail-order purchase. Even though President Lyndon Baines Johnson was not able get licensing and gun registration on the table, he succeeded in signing the GCA into law.

    The Birth of Pro-Gun Lobbies

    The passage of the GCA wasn’t without its fair share of opposition. Groups like the National Rifle Association, which traditionally focused on conservation and outdoor niches, were compelled to take nominally pro-gun stances. The NRA wasn’t alone, however. Groups like Gun Owners of America came into the spotlight positioning themselves as a “no compromise” alternative to NRA. By the early 1980s, pro-gun lobbies would become pivotal actors in the never-ending circus of DC politics.

    The Gun Control Apparatus Continues to Grow

    In pro-gun circles, it’s fashionable to brag about how the Second Amendment has stood strong against government infringements. In a relative sense, this is somewhat accurate. Compared to say, the health care sector , gun rights are in some regards more secure. But in the present-day climate of administrative politics, complacency is government growth’s best friend. And from the looks of it, there are some troubling developments gun owners cannot ignore.

    The passage of the 1968 GCA not only gave the federal government an entry point into firearms commerce, but also served as a springboard for future interventions like the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993. The Brady Act takes advantage of the GCA’s FFL system by mandating that all licensed firearms sellers conduct background checks of potential purchasers. The Brady Act also paved the way for the creation of the infamous National Instant Background Check System. NICS is an integral feature of the federal gun control apparatus and has been in existence for two decades, despite research showing it has been ineffective in deterring crime.

    These government intrusions aren’t without their fair share of disturbing consequences. According to gun researcher John Lott, the number of federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) has decreased from 283,000 in 1993 to 118,000 in 2013. Higher licensing costs played significant role in pricing out smaller weapons dealers. This trend will likely continue as the regulatory state grows larger by the day.

    And the infringements on gun rights continue. The Federal government recently snuck Fix NICS into an unpopular Omnibus bill. Fix NICS enhances the current background check system and puts federalism at risk by incentivizing state governments to turn over private records of gun owners. To add insult to injury, the Trump Administration is continuing its move to potentially ban bump stocks. On top of that, the ATF has ratcheted up its enforcement of federal gun laws. The simple act of selling a gun without the right government-approved paperwork can land someone in a federal cage. As is life in the present-day “statist quo” of arbitrary laws and regulations.

    Ideas are Still Key

    As the days go by, gun rights appear to be gradually falling down the path of statist micromanagement. But there’s something more fundamental to this trend than the cliché aphorism of eternal vigilance and conventional strategies of political activism. It really comes down to the battle of ideas. Jim Ostrowski is correct in his assessment of the current strategy of gun rights activists exclusively relying on lobbying and elections. It is simply not enough. Even the most seasoned of political operatives must come to grips with the fact that bad ideas precede bad politics.

    The GCA is a child of the New Deal and Great Society mindset that places the government as an omnipotent administrator of human affairs. A paradigm shift in ideas is needed to break free from this top-down vision of society. Until then, gun lobbies face an uphill battle.

    A solid first step is for gun owners to recognize that infringements like the GCA of 1968 must never be tolerated by anyone who believes in the right to self-defense.


    Jose Nino is a Venezuelan-American political activist based in Fort Collins, Colorado. Contact: twitter or email him here.


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      1. 50 years of ever increasing control of who can own a gun or buy one and no actual evidence that it has stopped a single criminal from obtaining a gun if he (or she) wants one or that it has actually prevented a single crime from being committed with a gun because the perpetrator couldn’t legally buy one.

        But plenty of evidence that it has prevented an honest citizen from defending him or herself from criminal assault or death, which is read about daily in the news.

        • Ignore all gun laws as they are all unconstitutional. Shoot, shovel, and shut the hell up.

          • Menzo, damn right. The only set of rules I live by are the Bill Of Rights and the Constitution. Everything that falls outside of those are null and void. Anonymous claims that gun control prevents honest citizens from defending themselves against criminal scum. While it might make it harder it won’t prevent me from doing so. NEVER EVER LET ANY LAWS WHICH CAN INTERFERE WITH SELF-DEFENSE PREVENT YOU FROM DOING SO. FOLLOWING SUCH LAWS HAS A PRICE TAG KNOWN AS BEING SERIOUSLY INJURED OR EVEN BEING KILLED.

            • I am a member of the SSS lol.

              • See the pattern.

                • 1968: The Gun Control Act of 1968 comes from JXXish Rep. Emanuel Celler’s House bill H.R. 17735. It expands legislation already attempted by the non-JXXish Sen. Thomas Dodd. America’s biggest and most far-reaching gun law came from a JXX.
                • 1988: Senate bill S. 1523 is sponsored by JXXish Senator Howard Metzenbaum. It proposes legislation turning every violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968 into a RICO predicate offense, allowing a gun owner to be charged with federal racketeering offenses.
                • 1988: Senator Metzenbaum co-sponsors a bill — S. 2180 — to ban, or limit/restrict, so-called “plastic guns.”
                • 1990: JXXish Senator Herbert Kohl introduces bill S.2070, the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which bans gun possession in a school zone. The law will later be struck down in court as unconstitutional.
                • 1993: Senate bill S.653 is sponsored by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum. It bans specific semiautomatic rifles, but also gives the Secretary of the Treasury the power to add any semiautomatic firearm to the list at a later date.
                • February, 1994: The Brady Law, which requires waiting periods to buy handguns, becomes effective. Senator Metzenbaum wrote the Brady Bill. Metzenbaum sponsored the bill in the Senate. The sponsor of the bill in the House was JXXish Rep. Charles Schumer.
                • 1994: Senator Metzenbaum introduces S.1878, the Gun Violence Prevention Act of 1994, aka “Brady II.” Rep. Schumer sponsored “Brady II” sister legislation [H.R. 1321] in the U.S. House of Representatives.
                • September, 1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 goes into effect, including a provision that bans the manufacture and possession of semiautomatic rifles described as “assault weapons.” [Note: true assault weapons are fully automatic, not semiautomatic]. That gun-ban provision was authored in the Senate by JXXish Senator Dianne Feinstein and authored in the House by Congressman Schumer.
                • 1995: JXXish Senators Kohl, Specter, Feinstein, Lautenberg and others introduce the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1995, an amended version of the 1990 school-zone law which was struck down in court as being unconstitutional.
                • February 1995: Sen. Dianne Feinstein announces her goal of “…an outright ban [of all firearms], picking up every one of them — Mr. and Mrs. America turn ’em all in.…”
                • September, 1996: The Lautenberg Domestic Confiscation provision becomes law. It is part of a larger omnibus appropriations bill. It was sponsored by JXXish Senator Frank Lautenberg. It bans people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from ever owning a gun.
                • 1997: Senate bill S. 54, the Federal Gang Violence Act of 1997, proposes much harsher sentences for people violating minor gun laws, including mandatory prison sentences and forfeiture of property. It was introduced by Dianne Feinstein and a non-JXXish Senator [Hatch], among others. It returns the idea of turning every violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968 into a RICO predicate offense.
                • January, 1999: JXXish Senator Barbara Boxer introduces bill S.193, the American Handgun Standards Act of 1999.
                • January, 1999: Senator Kohl introduces bill S.149, the Child Safety Lock Act of 1999. It would to require a child safety lock in connection with transfer of a handgun.
                • February, 1999: Senator Frank Lautenberg introduces bill S.407, the Stop Gun Trafficking Act of 1999.
                • February, 1999: Senator Lautenberg introduces S.443, the Gun Show Accountability Act of 1999.
                • March, 1999: Senator Lautenberg introduces bill S.560, the Gun Industry Accountability Act of 1999.
                • March, 1999: Senator Feinstein introduces bill S.594, the Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine Import Ban Act of 1999.
                • May, 2000: Senate bill S. 2515, Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2000, is submitted by Senators Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Schumer. It is a plan for a national firearms licensing system.
                • January, 2001: Senate bill S.25, Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2001, is sponsored by Feinstein, Schumer, and Boxer. It is a nation-wide gun registration plan [apparently there were two versions of that Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act bill].
                • May, 2003: Senators Feinstein, Schumer, Boxer and others introduce legislation that would reauthorize the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, and, close a loophole in the law that allows large-capacity ammunition magazines to be imported into the U.S. The ban is scheduled to expire in September, 2004.
                • October, 2003: Senators Feinstein, Lautenberg, Levin [also JXXish] and Schumer co-sponsor bill S.1774, designed to stop the sunset [ending] of the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988.
                • March, 2005: Senator Lautenberg introduces bill S.645, “to reinstate the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act,” in other words, to reinstate the 1994 assault-rifle ban [also known as the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994″] which expired in late 2004.
                • March, 2005: Senator Feinstein introduces bill S.620, “to reinstate the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act,” in other words, to reinstate the 1994 assault-rifle ban [also known as the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994″] which expired in late 2004.
                • July, 2005: Senator Dianne Feinstein introduces bill S.A.1621 – Fifty-Caliber Sniper Weapons. This amendment would convert all .50 BMG firearms to NFA weapons.
                • July, 2005: Senator Dianne Feinstein introduces bill S.A.1622 – Fifty-Caliber Exclusion to S.397. This amendment would modify S.397 to allow suits when the firearm involved was a .50 caliber weapon.
                • July, 2005: Senator Barbara Boxer introduces bill S.A.1633 – BATFE Safety Standards. This amendment allows law suits to continue/be brought if the product did not meet the safety standards as defined by the BATFE.
                • July, 2005: Senator Barbara Boxer introduces bill S.A.1634 – ‘Sporting Use’ on Domestic Handguns. Applying ’sporting use’ clause requirements to domestic handguns could, almost completely, dry up the handgun availability in the United States.
                • November 2017: Senator Dianne Feinstein introduces “Assault Weapon Ban of 2017,” S. 2095, the most far-reaching gun gun ban ever introduced in the US Knesset…er, Congress. Among the cunningly expansive definitions of “assault weapon,” the definition of pistol grip even implicates traditional wooden hunting rifle stocks. Shortly after introducing her ban, she leaked classified information and, when exposed, blamed her crime on “slow mental facilities” [sic] due to a cold.
                • March 2018: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz introduces Ammunition Background Check Act of 2018
                • etc., etc., etc.

        • We the people must have citizen trials and begin convicting and jailing or hanging ANY person, Governmental agent, or politician who INFRINGES in ANY manner on the 2nd!!! JUST LIKE THE CONSTITUTION SAYS!!!!
          Evil sons of bitches won’t stop until they are forced to feel the law of the land on their sorry asses!

      2. “It was the first piece of legislation that put the gun control debate on the map.”

        Don’t think so. Prohibition put gun control on the map with the 1934 National Firearms act. The govt manufactures criminals and reasons to take away freedom.

        And all you faux constitutional conservatives are your own chink in your 2nd amendment armor. Stupid azz failed WoD is the primary vehicle for completely destroying the 2nd.

        • Where was the NRA during all of this? (sarc off).

        • Nunmya,
          You are socially speaking correct.
          Prohibitions and outlawing of drugs
          has created a blackmarket demand and supply
          chain that uses guns to maintain the
          various markets. Since most gun owners
          are law obedient they are the most
          convenient target for democrats that
          want to control everything regardless
          of your personal rights.
          When we get to the point where only
          outlaws have guns. Mine will be military
          grade bought on the black market.
          I will have RPG’s and grenades.
          I may go into the import business.
          I’m not a conservative. I don’t
          believe Democrats should have any
          rights to vote or own guns.

      3. “the Second Amendment has stood strong against government infringements. In a relative sense, this is somewhat accurate. ”

        absolutely, completely, UTTERLY fking FALSE.

        The 2nd amendment was to guarantee all weapons of war were held in private hands. Sorry, that is NOWHERE near true any more.

        wtf wrote this garbage.

        • Nunya* – you’re absolutely right. We the people are the ones who are supposed to have the ability, the arms, the rights to any and all firearms; not the government. Only when the government IS us (which it sadly is not) are those same legal. Consider… a private corporation can own, run, manage and sell the output of a nuclear reactor, right? So? If a corporation – an entity made up of citizens – can own nuclear materials since when is it illegal for a citizen to own anything of a lesser power in terms of effectiveness? People/citizens can own jets, ships, rockets, …. you name it. But – put a gun on one and it somehow becomes illegal? Say what? No. I vote ‘no’ to that idea. As far as I’m concerned a man or woman wants to own a fighter, a tank, a RPG, … whatever – as long as he/she does not use it for ill purpose – more power to them. Literally.

          • Do those corporations have to be specially licensed and regulated to own those materials or are they free to own them without restrictions on them and their use at their own whim?

            But I see the advantage of free ownership of RPG’s and such (as most narco gangs south of the border do).

            Nothing puts, say, a burglar or some bothersome neighbor down like an RPG.

      4. The nutzoid, anti-liberty, leftist, New World Order, totalitarian, communist, control freaks have been at it far longer than most people realize.

      5. You were made defenseless, during the same span of years —
        Communist agitator MLK
        when mass immigration became normal
        fake civil rights
        expansion of welfare
        oral contraceptives
        Second Wave feminism rebels against her domesticity.

        Gun control is synonymous with demoralization and chaos.

        • Beaumont, NOBODY is defenseless as long as they are properly armed and trained. The 2A is the only thing that stands between us and all-out tyranny.

          • Not for the last 50 yrs.

            The social contract no longer covers self ownership or the dignity of labor. How is that not the definition of a tyranny.

      6. And don’t forget the traitors. American rifle manufacturers pushed for the 1968 Act in order to prevent huge numbers of WW2 surplus rifles from getting into the US. If I’m not mistaken, Charleton Heston was their lobbyist at the time. Go figure.

        • And don’t forget the NRA also supported the 1986 ban.

          • NRA= Negotiating Rights Away,

            • As per Merriam-Webster:
              infringe —
              1. to encroach upon in a way that violates law or the rights of another
              2. defeat, frustrate

              The animals, plants, and lower lifeforms, all have a thorn, a horn, a skin, an immunity, or some kind of defenses, speaking of natural rights.

              In other words, the (lawful, natural) right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be (encroached-upon, defeated, frustrated).

              The NRA seems more concerned with using quota case models to sell tacky, fashion accessorizes.

              Ask candidates the meaning of infringement, if they are campaigning in good faith.

      7. NFA 34 was to ostensibly fight crime with its real purpose being civilian revolt caused by a disgruntled populace angered and desperate by the Great Depression. Its interesting that the main threat, the motorized bandits generally stole their full auto weapons from the police and military. A noteworthy exemption was George ‘Machine Gun” Kelly. The organized crime criminals never discontinued their use as they had sufficient funs and hence contacts to obtain what they wanted. The use by them subsided with the end of prohibitions “beer wars”. GCA 68 was largely taken from the NAZI Weapons Law of 1938. Its author Senator Thomas Dodd just so coincidently was an attorney at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials and its believed that he obtained a copy of the 1938 law using it as a templet. GCA 68 coincided with both the anti war / civil rights movements and likewise its roots are ostensible.

        • If you talk to some old timers a few have stories about the amnesty period for unregistered full autos. One of these old fellas had a friend that brought in a WWII belt fed into the ATF office in a big city (I think Philadelphia) carrying it over his shoulder. Those with DEWAT’s (that cost $75 in 1960) that had the sense to paper the up could later legally reactivate them turning $75 into $20K -$30K at present value. The definition of a machine gun was changed along with including above 50 caliber a “destructive device”. I assume the 20mm were used by the grandparents of the same people that did the drive by bayonetting’s that forced Uncle Sam to include “bayonet lugs” as a feature of an “assault weapon”.

      8. hey all you wachichus we buried our war paint along time ago If you have not done that already then do it while you can. We were the ones that got Custer and learned that that lesson many years ago. bury your war paint now and smile at the tyrants and bide your time

      9. It might have been a good idea in 1934, and in 1968.
        But like Communism did it work out ?

        I do not think so………..

        Be responsible plain, and simple.

        An punish the criminals who misused firearms in the act of a crime.

        • Angry F,
          “Be responsible plain, and simple.
          An punish the criminals who misused firearms in the act of a crime.”
          Simply makes too much sense for Democrats to understand.

          • Rellik

            You got that right.
            Its something back in the 1930s the $200.00 tax stamp was out of reach for the so called middle class, or poor class.

            The RICH and the GANGSTERS could afford it.

            I am willing to bet back then with organized crime the GANGSTERS had a way to change the barrels out as well as changing the firing pin and extractors on there TOMMY GUNS.

            So shit who is fooling who ????

        • “It might have been a good idea in 1934, and in 1968.”

          What part of “Shall Not Be Infringed” is unclear? The real purpose, not the ostensible one given for these laws is to increase governments power over, “We The People”. The Second Amendment isn’t there for hunting, sport shooting or even self defense from criminals but rather defense from government gone bad.

          • Kevin

            Solid copy on that.
            I hope with the elections coming up we can get rid of this trash and put some of these M.Fs in jail for a long time on the grounds of treason or sidition.

            I tell you if this was not the good old USA a lot of these people would be tied to a post with a cigarette or a joint in the mouths and you fill in the blanks.

      10. The inside job false flag attacks in the recent timeframe such as the Boston Marathon bombing, Sandyhook, Orlando nightclub massacre, Las Vegas massacre, Parkland, Florida school shooting, and on and on are evidence of the want to strip citizens of self defense. Real or fake events work the same. Free speech and gun ownership on the chopping block, each guarantees the other.

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