Federal Laws and Regulations
A significant amount of the laws and regulations which have an impact on firearms owners, firearms ownership, and firearms dealers are contained in a cornucopia of statutes, rules and regulations that exist at the federal level. These federal laws cast a broad net over substantially all state level activities to the point that many would question whether the federal government has exceeded its constitutional limitations by enacting and enforcing such quilted patchwork of legislation and regulation.
There are certain federal statutes which are central to the issue of firearms and firearms ownership. These include the 1968 Gun Control Act and the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act. (“FOPA”) each of which are codified in 18 United States Code Title 44. These are complicated and often litigated statutes. Because one of the litigants is often the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (also known as the BATFE, the BATF, and the ATF), sometimes the words of the statutes are given meanings different than what the terms mean in ordinary conversation.
Whenever a dispute arises concerning the meaning of a statute, it is important to take into consideration what the legislature intended when it wrote the law. For this purpose, courts often look at the legislative history of an act to determine the legislative intent. The following legislative histories give insight to the history of these central federal laws: