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The National Firearms Act was enacted on June 26, 1934. The impetus for it was the gangland crime of the Prohibition era and the attempted assassination of President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 15, 1933.

The assassin missed FDR, but killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. This act of Congress imposed a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandated the registration of those firearms. All transfers of ownership of registered NFA firearms had to be done through the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

A year later, in 1935, the Illinois Legislature debated firearms legislation. “Opposition to proposed Illinois legislation to impose more severe restrictions upon possession of firearms, was expressed in vigorous terms by state Rep. Clinton Searle of Rock Island in an address last night before 200 members of the Illowa Rifle club at a dinner at Hawcock’s café in Monmouth,” said the Daily Dispatch on Nov. 2, 1935. (Illowa was an organization of gun clubs in Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa.)

“Mr. Searle said the experience of New York under the Sullivan law and of other states under legislation similar to that under bills proposed in Illinois, has shown that such laws ‘serve to prevent decent citizens from owning arms,’ and leaves them ‘more than ever at the mercy of thugs and hoodlums who care nothing for the anti-firearms law and its penalties,;” the paper said.

The Sullivan Act of 1911 mandated a license to carry be issued at the discretion of local law enforcement. They were referred to as “may-issue” due to the abuse. Most licenses issued for right to carry went to white males who were well-heeled and politically connected.

"Attempts to put through such laws in Illinois have been made repeatedly in Illinois,” said Searle. “The statute books are already packed with too many regulatory laws which are the product of sentimentalism.”

State Rep. Lawrence Stice, Monmouth, also spoke in condemnation of the firearms bill. President Morris Worthington and Secretary Aaron Epstein, both of Chicago, spoke on behalf of the Illinois Rifle club.

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The Gun Control Act of 1968 primarily focused on interstate commerce and prohibiting interstate firearms transfers except among licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers. Passage of the act was prompted by the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Kennedy was shot and killed with a rifle purchased by mail-order from an ad in the magazine “American Rifleman.” After the deaths of Martin Luther King in April 1968 and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968, public attitudes about guns began shifting. After much stalling, the Gun Control Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Oct. 22, 1968. It banned mail-order sales of rifles and shotguns, and prohibited most felons, drug users and people found mentally incompetent from buying guns.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act passed in 1993 was an enhanced sequel to the gun control act of 1968, according to Wikipedia. The act required a licensed seller to inspect the criminal history of prospective gun purchases and created a list of categories of individual to whom the sale of firearms is prohibited.

That list is long. It includes illegal residents, those discharged dishonorably from the Armed Forces, those indicted or convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for at least one year, those subject to a court order restraint following a court hearing, those who have been adjudicated as having a mental defect, and those convicted of domestic violence. Holders of state-issued medical marijuana cards are automatically “prohibited people.”

The Brady act also created the National Instant Criminal background check System (NICS) to prevent firearms sales to such prohibited people.

(A buyer holding a Curio & Relic license purchasing a firearm that qualifies as a curio or relic does not have to go through a licensed dealer to sell of buy out of state.)

Marlene Gantt of Port Byron is a retired Rock Island Teacher

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