GUN FAQs

What does "caliber" refer to?

Caliber is used to describe the diameter of a bullet. In the U.S., caliber is generally given in inches, with 1.0 equaling one inch. Other handgun calibers include: .22, .25, .38, and .45.

What's the difference between automatic and semi-automatic guns?

A semiautomatic weapon fires one shot every time the trigger is pulled. An automatic weapon fires continually until the trigger is released.

What is the difference between a pistol and a revolver?

Both are handguns. A revolver contains a revolving cylinder in which bullets are loaded. Revolvers usually hold six shots. The ATF defines a pistol as any handgun that does not contain its ammunition in a revolving cylinder. Most pistols have a removable magazine into which bullets are loaded. The magazine is then inserted into the hollow handgrip of the gun.

What does "dropfire" mean?

A dropfire is an accidental discharge of a firearm caused by a gun hitting the ground or other surface. For a pistol, the shock from impact causes the gun's spring loaded striker mechanism to jump loose from its safety and snap forward, striking a bullet in the gun's chamber and firing the round.

What is an FFL?

A Federal Firearms License is required to allow a person or company to sell or manufacture firearms. There are 11 categories of FFLs, including dealer, importer, manufacturer, and collector. All but about 20,000 of the 124,000 FFL holders in the US are gun dealers. FFLs are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

What is required to obtain a FFL?

Until the 1994 Crime Bill was passed, it was easier to obtain an FFL than a driver's license. The process is more stringent today. Now, potential dealers must be photographed and fingerprinted, have an interview with an ATF inspector, prove they have a place of business, notify the chief law enforcement officer in the area they intend to sell or manufacture guns, certify compliance with all state and local laws, pass a background check, and pay $200.00.

How often are guns used in crime?

According to the Department of Justice's National Criminal Victimization Survey, in 1995 there were 815,130 violent crimes committed with a gun (including rifles, shotguns and handguns), or an average of 1 every 39 seconds. Guns are used in 68 percent of all murders, and 80% of these murders are committed with a handgun.

Where does the term "Saturday Night Special " come from?

The exact origin is unknown, but some say it was coined by a police detective in Detroit. The term is derived from the use of cheap, low caliber guns on Saturday nights in the 1960's, when inner city emergency wards filled up with victims of street crimes and crimes of passion.

What does "Ring of Fire" refer to?

The 'Ring of Fire' is a chain of volcanoes scattered around the Pacific Ocean. But the phrase was borrowed by Garen Wintemute (an emergency room physician and Director of the Violence Prevention Research Program) to describe a circle of six manufacturers of inexpensive handguns, all located within a one-hour drive of downtown Los Angeles.

Guns made by the Ring of Fire companies are commonly referred to as "Saturday Night Specials," or "junk guns" by numerous states, counties and cities because these guns fail to meet certain design standards.

How often are Saturday Night Specials used in crimes?

No agency keeps comprehensive statistics about the make and model of guns used in crimes. But one indicator of their use in crimes is the data about the guns which law enforcement ask the ATF to trace. One study, using ATF tracing data, suggests that guns manufactured by the 'Ring of Fire' companies are 3.4 times more likely to be used in crimes than guns made by the "Old Line" companies like Colt, Smith and Wesson, or Sturm Ruger.

Each year the ATF releases a list of the top ten traced guns. In 1995 six of the top ten guns traced were made by 'Ring of Fire' companies.

What kinds of guns are favored by illegal traffickers?

According to a 1997 ATF report: "Handguns are the firearms most likely to be illegally trafficked. Inexpensive handguns are favored by illegal traffickers."

What did the Brady Bill do?

With the 1994 Brady Handgun Violence and Prevention Act, Congress imposed a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases to allow law enforcement officers time to perform criminal background checks of potential buyers. By November 1998 the five day waiting period will expire. A new national computer system is being established to allow gun dealers to instantly check the background of buyers at the time of purchase. About half of all states are exempt from the Brady Act because they have alternative systems for conducting background checks.

Who is prohibited from purchasing a firearm?

Among those prohibited from buying a firearm include: convicted felons, illegal drug users, persons under indictment, fugitives, illegal aliens, persons convicted for domestic violence, minors, people adjudicated as mentally ill, those dishonorably discharged from the military, and people who renounce their U.S. citizenship.

What is a straw buyer?

A straw buyer is someone who buys a firearm for a person prohibited from having one. In numerous reported cases, a convicted felon or other prohibited person, has walked into a gun shop, picked out a gun, placed cash on the counter, and had their companion recorded as the legal purchaser of the gun. Gun dealers are required by law to prohibit such transactions.

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