A Few Federal Firearms Laws You Probably Didn’t Know About…

gun and bullets against american flag backdrop

There are many federal laws governing firearms – here are a few of the less commonly known ones.


Laws regulating guns and other weapons are set by municipalities, counties,  individual states, and the federal government. Over the past few years, some states around the U.S. have become more lenient regarding gun laws and, as is commonly the case, federal law has slowly changed to reflect that. But gun laws are not something that everyone is familiar with. Even if you know what your state laws are, federal laws may be different. So here are a few federal firearms laws that you probably didn’t know existed…

You CAN carry a gun inside a national park

While federal law prohibits civilians carrying guns inside federal buildings, like post offices and courthouses, that law no longer extends to federally protected land. In 2009, Congress passed a measure allowing visitors to wildlife refuges and national parks to carry a loaded firearm. However, visitors can only carry their guns into those parks located in states that already permit the carrying of concealed weapons in their own state parks.


Legal immigrants in the U.S. CAN legally purchase firearms

Our Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that people in the United States have the right to keep and bear arms, and the right to maintain a militia. It never specifies anywhere that the people in question have to be U.S. citizens. In fact, it is legal for a non-citizen to purchase a gun in the U.S., but only if they have first received permanent resident status in the U.S., and only if their state allows it. Michigan, however, does not.


You CAN check a gun as luggage on an AMTRAK train

Another measure passed by Congress in 2009 was that which allows Amtrak customers to check guns and/or ammunition inside their luggage on the train. Airlines have allowed a similar setup for some time now, but up until 2009, the federally subsidized national rail service forbade customers to carry firearms in either checked or carry-on luggage, courtesy of the 911 attacks.


Federal law protects the gun industry from lawsuits

In the wake of the criminal misuse of firearms, for example tragedies like Columbine and Sandy Hook, it is prohibited by federal law to sue gun dealers and gun manufacturers. Congress enacted this law in 2005 in an attempt to prohibit lawsuits that force the gun industry to pay for the crimes of third parties that they have no control over. There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example: situations where the dealer or manufacturer knew that the gun was to be used in a crime, and chose to sell it anyway.


Firearms related research is no longer federally funded

Current legislation, enacted in the mid-nineties, states that the Center for Disease Control is forbidden to engage in any form of firearms related research. In fact, the law specifically states that “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

The federal firearms trace database is not available to the public

While many people over the years have expressed the wish that gun dealers would do better background checks before selling guns to potential criminals, the law actually doesn’t allow this. The “crime gun trace database”, which is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is actually off limits to the public. In addition, federal law prohibits ATFE from requiring that gun dealers conduct inventories to account for lost or stolen guns, or that trace data be used in state civil lawsuits to suspend or revoke a gun dealer’s license.


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