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Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Global Perspectives

The Global Legal Research Center of the Law Library of Congress recently completed a major report titled Firearms- Control Legislation and Policy (February 2013).  The study examines the different legal approaches taken by eighteen countries and the European Union with regard to various activities involving firearms.  The countries surveyed were Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, and Switzerland.

The report is being published in stages on the Law Library’s website, where you can also find a range of other reports on various legal topics.  A comparative analysis of all the country studies is the first item to be published. The individual studies cover relevant constitutional provisions, laws, regulations, and directives in addition to statistical and other information on gun control and licensing requirements.  Many describe legislative history and trends, which in some cases were influenced by rising crime levels or incidents of mass shootings.

Colt Revolver, Side View (1878). Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The reports show that gun crime rates and mass murders involving firearms have had particular impacts on the legal approaches of some countries.  Incidents of mass killing reported in the study include the following cases: in 2010 in Cumbria, northwest England, a gunman killed twelve people and wounded twenty-five using firearms he lawfully possessed.  On January 3, 2013, a thirty-four-year-old militiaman in Daillon, Switzerland went on a shooting spree, killing three women and wounding two men with his militia weapon.  Port Arthur, Australia was the scene of a mass shooting in 1996, when a twenty-eight-year-old gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle shot and killed thirty-five people and wounded eighteen others.  That same year a gunman armed with two lawfully held rifles and four handguns walked into an elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland and shot and killed sixteen four- to five-year-old children and their teacher before killing himself.  In Germany, teenage shooters armed with semiautomatic pistols or a sawed-off percussion rifle shot schoolchildren and teachers on three different occasions in 2002, 2006, and in 2009, all ending with multiple deaths and casualties.  Norway witnessed a gruesome mass killing in 2011 by a man who had first bombed the government district of Oslo and then, using weapons he had lawfully acquired for hunting, shot and killed seventy-seven and wounded 242 mostly young people at a youth camp.

So how do these countries handle ownership, possession, and transactions involving firearms?  Do they require background checks?  Is proof of mental health a requirement for dealing with firearms?

We invite you to read our report.  You can also sign up for alerts  from our website if you wish to receive notifications of the new parts of the report being published (click “subscribe” on the top right-hand corner of the page), and we will also post links on our Facebook page and on Twitter.

4 Comments

  1. MLJNR
    April 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    I note that the term “lawfully acquired,” is used multiply, whereas “unlawfully acquired,” is not used once. While it may not be the focus of this piece to shine a light on the actions of those perpetrators of murder using illegally acquired firearms and how they have effected various laws, it is worthy of note that the vast majority of “mass murder tragedies” have been via “unlawfully acquired firearms,” as witnessed by a simple analysis of Mexico’s recent history, as just an example.

  2. susan fisher
    April 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    I believe that in a just and free society such as the United State of America, it’s extremely important to maintain our rights to bear arms. The use of a Godly legal system such as we have is the proper answer for those who abuse those rights. The taking of the privelege and duty to protect ourselves and our country by punishing the guiltless majority of citizens for the atrocities of the few is a very scary and harmful thought and illogical. Our nation needs to apprehend those who actually commit a crime, not prevent them by taking our rights to bear arms. The USA remains a free society because it’s known we have the right to bear and to use weapons. To take those rights is to change our entire society and subvert justice. The families of those who encounter gunmen immediately obtain weapons to defend themselves from such violence and that’s a proper response. To defend ourselves is a constitutional liberty that makes sense for a Godly society. The bible states that Israel was under great bondageand affliction by enemies when their weapons and rights to manufacture them were taken away. We stand together as a nation and the vast majority of Americans are not the enemy, but the nation itself. We ask that our rights be maintained and not taken from us by our elected representatives in government. God help us.

  3. carol j dixon
    April 3, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Passing a law to ban firearms will not stop mass shootings. They will simply buy them illegally.

  4. Kristina
    April 3, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Without getting into the politics of gun control, I want to applaud the law librarians for putting together this impressive report — what important, meaningful and interesting work you all do!

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