The state laws controlling the purchase of firearms are varied and constantly changing. The laws reviewed here are current, but there is still a great amount of legislation pending before state governments designed primarily to make the legal purchase of guns more difficult. Each state has some form of restriction on the buying of guns, though rural states tend to be less restrictive in controlling guns than highly urban states due to the greater numbers of hunters and sportsmen in their populations. Nonetheless, in most states convicted felons and minors cannot purchase guns; in some, aliens and individuals with mental disabilities cannot. Machine guns, automatic weapons, sawed-off shotguns, and guns with silencers are banned in many.
One of the more controversial restrictions applied to the purchase of guns is a waiting period, in which a certain amount of time must pass between the time an individual purchases a gun and is able to take possession of the gun. With the rise in gun-related crimes, a number of states already have instituted waiting periods to discourage rash actions.
A recent controversial restriction on gun ownership surrounds possession of guns in schools. The controversy arose when the Supreme Court struck down, in 1995, the Federal Gun-Free School Zone Act as an unlawful federal interference with states’ abilities to govern themselves. Forty-nine states have legislation directly or indirectly affecting possession of guns in and around schools. Some of the states have enacted their legislation since the federal act was overturned, some have had such laws on their books for some time. In any case all states now specifically ban possession of firearms on school grounds.