Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Interstate Gun Purchases

Interstate Gun Purchases

From December 7, 2009 CBS News:
You can buy a car from an out-of-state dealer and pick it up there. You can buy a house in another part of the country, as speculators unwisely did during the real estate bubble, sight unseen. But even though the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own firearms -- and presumably to buy them -- you can't purchase a handgun while you're visiting another state.

A gun rights group has sued the Justice Department to overturn this prohibition, which became law as part of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and the case is now in front of U.S. District Judge James Robertson in Washington, D.C.

Narrowly speaking, the Second Amendment Foundation has filed the Hodgkins v. Holder suit on behalf of American citizens who live abroad and would like to buy firearms when they return for a visit (but can't because Form 4473 requires them to list what U.S. state they live in). More broadly, it could restore Americans' right to buy handguns while traveling across state lines as long as they undergo the normal federal background check.
This is an interesting question. When the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed, there was no central repository of information on criminal convictions, mental illness commitments, and other issues that might resolve the question of whether a person could legally buy a gun or not. I can somewhat see why it made sense to limit purchases of firearms to your home state, where presumably police could do a background check (if the state law required it). Today, we have a national background check system that can very quickly figure out if you are a prohibited person. The original justification of limiting purchases to your state of residence really don't make sense anymore.

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