Handgun Control

Effectiveness and Costs Gao ID: PAD-78-4 February 6, 1978

In 1976, 63.8 percent of murders, 23.6 percent of aggravated assaults, and 42.7 percent of robberies in the United States were committed with guns. Over the past 10 years the use of guns in crime has increased greatly. Three major Federal laws have controlled the sale and possession of firearms: the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, and the Gun Control Act of 1968.

There has been a direct relationship between increased handgun availability and increased gun-related crimes in America since the mid-sixties. The Gun Control Act was an attempt to remove inexpensive handguns from the market by restricting imports; it also attempted to aid State and local law enforcement by requiring gun purchasers to be State residents and prohibiting some people from buying guns. However, since it does not require verification of a purchaser's identity, it is not effective in deterring people with criminal records from acquiring guns. State and local laws affecting handguns consist of a patchwork of statutes and requirements, with State laws effective only within State lines and a lack of uniformity among States. Other attempts to curb gun-related crimes have been the enactment by some States of mandatory sentencing for crimes committed with guns and a Federal enforcement project. The effectiveness of these and other approaches has not been clearly established. It is difficult to estimate the cost of a national gun control system because there is no definitive design for such a system. Costs would depend on requirements and needs for personnel. Savings would result from integrating some State gun control systems into a national system.


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