Spurred by the bloody “Tommy gun” era ushered in by Al Capone, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde, seen at right, President Franklin D. Roosevelt mounts a “New Deal for Crime.” One part of it is the National Firearms Act of 1934, the first federal gun-control law, which levies a restrictive $200 tax on the manufacture or sale of machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. All sales were to be recorded in a national registry.
Roosevelt wins approval of the National Firearms Act of 1938, which requires the licensing of interstate gun dealers, who must record their sales. It prohibits sales to individuals under indictment or convicted of crimes of violence.
Spurred by the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., President Lyndon B. Johnson renews the fight for gun control. He wins passage of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and the Gun Control Act of 1968, which becomes the primary federal law regulating firearms. It prohibits all convicted felons, drug users and the mentally ill from buying guns; raises the age to purchase handguns from a federally licensed dealer to 21; and expands the licensing requirements to more gun dealers and requires more detailed record-keeping.