U.S. News

Factbox: U.S. guns laws among the most permissive in world

TUCSON (Reuters) - The Arizona assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has focused attention on U.S. gun laws, which are among the most permissive in the developed world.

Here are some of the key federal and state laws:

* CONSTITUTION: The Constitution’s Second Amendment, which is part of the so-called Bill of Rights says: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Supreme Court in a key ruling in 2008 supported the right of individual Americans to own guns for self defense. Gun owners, represented by the powerful National Rifle Association, have jealously guarded this right and opposed any proposed law they see as diluting it.

* BRADY LAW: The so-called Brady law went into effect in 1994 requiring a criminal background check before a handgun could be sold to a buyer. Named after Jim Brady, the press secretary to then-President Ronald Reagan, who was seriously wounded in the assassination attempt on the president in 1981, it established a national instant criminal background check system. The system keeps records on criminals and the mentally unfit so they can be denied guns. In 2008, after the Virginia Tech massacre by a disturbed student who should have been barred from purchasing a gun, a new law was passed offering funding to states to improve the records in the criminal background system, though many states including Arizona are still not up to date.

* ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN: For a decade until 2004, the U.S. banned civilians from owning certain types of assault weapons. This ban was allowed to expire during the administration of President George W. Bush. Police said the young man arrested in the Arizona shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, purchased a semi-automatic Glock pistol from a Tucson gun dealer in November. This has prompted some in Congress to call for the ban on assault weapons to be reinstated.

* CONCEALED WEAPONS: In recent years the NRA and gun owners have focused much of their attention on states. They have been so successful that only two states, Illinois and Wisconsin plus the District of Columbia, flatly prohibit citizens from carrying so-called concealed weapons in public places. Ten of the states which have concealed carry laws require that the citizen demonstrate a need to carry the weapon, but 38 states do not require an explanation for carrying the weapon. Arizona is one of three states, also including Vermont and Alaska, that do not require any kind of permit to carry a concealed weapon.

* OTHER GUN LAWS: Gun owners have also focused on the right to carry guns in some previously banned places. Last year, a new federal law went into effect that allows visitors to U.S. national parks to carry concealed, loaded guns. After the Virginia Tech massacre some student groups began pushing for university students to have the explicit right in law to carry concealed weapons on college campuses for self defense. Legislation to that effect has been introduced in several states including Arizona, Texas and Georgia.

Sources: National Archives (transcript of Bill of Rights), National Conference of State Legislatures, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, National Rifle Association.

Compiled by Greg McCune, Editing by Jerry Norton