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Gun ownership rights: Will there be more federal restrictions?

Gun laws in the U.S. are both complicated and controversial. Given all the storms and stresses of recent years, anxiety about further federal restrictions on legal gun ownership is understandable.

To be sure, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in favor of gun rights in 2008. In an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court ruled that the Second Amendment language about a "well regulated" militia does apply to handguns.

Two years later, the Court followed up by saying the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments. But now, with Justice Scalia gone and the presidential campaign in full swing, uncertainties abound.

In this post, we will discuss some common questions about legal rights to firearms possession.

Congress did not pass proposed legislation to increase background checks before purchasing a gun. What actions does President Obama intend to take on its own?

Early this year, the president announced a 4-point plan on gun regulations. One part of this is adding 200 new federal agents to enforce existing gun laws more effectively. Another part involves making mental health care more available and improving information-sharing at the state level about restrictions on gun ownership due to mental health.

The president's plan also broadens background checks for gun sales, both online and at gun shows. And it encourages the research to develop a "smart gun" that could only be fired by its owner.

Is it true that gun production and sales have surged in response to concerns about additional federal restrictions?

Yes, although the surge seems to be subsiding. The Washington Times reported this week that the number of firearms units produced in the U.S. jumped from to 10.8 million in 2013, when the Sandy Hook shootings spurred a number of federal and state proposals to tighten eligibility for gun ownership. In 2009, the number of units produced was much lower, at 5.6 million. In 2014, it was about 9 million.

Is it really possible to produce a "smart gun"?

A: The concept has been around for awhile. But the technology is still unproven.

In the law enforcement community, there is concern that cops could be put in perilous positions if they are asked to test out the technology in tight spots out on the street.

Will any of these federal actions affect the law on restoration of gun rights in Washington state?

Not directly. As we explained in our February 22 post on firearms privileges, getting those privileges back is a matter of state, not federal, law.

But federal restrictions on gun sales certainly affect the supply of guns in Washington or any other state.

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