Gun Laws of the 1970s

How easy was it to obtain a gun in America in the seventies? This was before the Brady Bill, so I assume buying a handgun at least wasn’t as difficult as it is now.

Basically, is it tougher to get a gun now than it was in, say, 1979?

Yes but it’s still not very tough. Only about 5 states have waiting periods (Wisconsin just dumped ours). If you’re not a felon buying one at a store in most areas is pretty easy and most states still allow for private sales.

What is far easier today is legally carrying a gun in public. In the 70’s only a handful of states had legal concealed carry. And in places where open carry was legal under state law people were getting harassed and charged with disorderly conduct for doing so.

It sucked then and now to try to get a gun in places like New York City, California, and D.C…

Most gun laws today are state laws, and there were fewer federal laws in the 70s. Your question can’t really be answered factually without a huge chunk of research because laws varied so dramatically from state to state and city to city. Nationally handguns could only be purchased in your state of residence and handguns or long guns required filling out a form with identifying info and statement that you weren’t in a prohibited category if you’re buying from a dealer (a number of states required handgun sales to go through a dealer). Various cities and states had much stronger restrictions - New York’s handgun licensing scheme dates back to the 1920s IIRC, and the DC handgun ban started in 1976. Numerous other states (especially southern states) had some kind of permitting system that amounted to ‘the sheriff or police chief decides if you’re OK’, for example NC required a permit to purchase a pistol that was issued solely at the discretion of the county sheriff. Other states didn’t have any restriction beyond the federal laws or non-discretionary registration.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually easier overall for a black person with no criminal record but no political connections to buy a handgun legally today than it was in the 1970s. While on paper a lot of places just required a simple permit or registration, permits and registration were on a discretionary basis, and that discretion often worked out in practice to anything from ‘better be white’ to ‘better have connections with the mayor’. Most of the discretionary schemes have been shot down or legislated past today. It’s harder for someone with a felony, DV misdemeanor, or involuntary commitment to buy a handgun now, since there’s generally a background check required, but likely easier for someone who can pass the check, and it’s much less confusing.

It’s obviously easier for anyone to legally buy a handgun now in DC than it was in 1979, since it wasn’t possible to do so back then. It is definitely much easier for someone, especially a minority with no political connections, to legally carry concealed than it was at that time.

I vaguely remembered reading ( I live in a country with oppressive gun laws ) that Americans used to be able to get their tools from general catalogs, such as Sears; and here’s a page on this showing rather handsome guns, inc. handguns, rifles and shotguns from the '50s / '60s.
Envisioning The American Dream — Mid-Century Media
Browning .22s from $1.30 down ( about $40 ); Colts from $1.50 down; Harrington & Richardson revolvers about $30.
Dunno how the catalog sellers checked your eligibility, to ensure 14 yr old Johnny with his Xmas money didn’t amass an arsenal; but I’m sure some people worked it so they got stuff others would prefer they didn’t. I would have.
On the other hand Americans weren’t into killing each other so much back then.

Except that the homicide rate per 100,000 in 1979 was 9.7, and in 2013 it was 4.5.

Whatever you may say about changing gun laws in the U.S., murder rates have been on a downward trend for the past 20 years.

Well, there seem to be a lot of school shootings now: in the 1930s and '40s 8 shootings a decade.

Now, around 30 shootings a year recently:

List of school shootings in the United States

However, according to Infoplease, the murder rate in 1950 was 4.6; so combined with your figure over 65 years it went up and now rests where once it did.

Of course, due to police techniques people are a lot more likely to be caught over the last two decades, so their murderousness may be as high as ever, but they are more prudent. Anyway I’ve rarely read of ordinary Americans gunning each other down in the first half of the 20th century, outside the gangs.

That has little to do with it. A murdered stiff is still recognized as a murdered stiff. In fact, to this day, about 40% of all known homicides are never cleared by arrest.

No, I was saying that people may want to murder as much as in the elder times, but prudence points out that they will be caught, so they don’t.

I would imagine that in a lot of those lucky 40%, they might not get a conviction, but police have a good idea of who the killer was.

[ Oh, and I fully support gun freedoms: but having just looked at a lot of Save-Our-Guns type blogs and sites — often with surprising font colours and on the wilder shores of sanity — gun nuts seem to be their own worse enemy. ]

The question was about the 1970s, and picked 1979 as an example year. The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed in, well, 1968, which makes the way things were in the '50s and '60s kind of irrelevant to the question. The GCA made mail order gun sales generally illegal, and set up the system of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) as the ones for shipping guns and operating gun stores, which is still in use today. Gun Control Act of 1968 - Wikipedia