This Day in History: Gun Control Act of 1968 Signed into Law

President Johnson signs the GCA into law, 10/22/1968.

U.S.A. –-( On October 22, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968 into law. Initially conceived in 1963 after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the idea really gained momentum after the 1968 assassinations of both civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

President Kennedy was killed with a rifle purchased through the mail; King was killed with a rifle purchased by a convicted felon, and Senator Kennedy was killed with a revolver purchased by an alien (non-citizen) of the United States.

In the years between 1963 and 1968, there was plenty of debate surrounding gun control and the Second Amendment. The most notable quote from this timeframe came from now-deceased Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) during hearings before the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency in 1965.

Rep. Dingell said, “Consider the fact that we now have on the lawbooks of this nation over 20,000 laws governing the sale, distribution and use of firearms.”

With that in mind, Dingell’s hope was to get people to consider the staggering amount of laws already on the books, and what, exactly, would adding one more accomplish. Dingell’s statistic would go on to be one of – if not the – most often quoted statistic regarding gun laws in the United States, even to this day. Much to the chagrin of legal minds everywhere, no one has ever been able to pin down the source from which Dingell came up with that figure.

The new Gun Control Act of 1968 aimed to curb the circumstances under which the arms used in the assassinations were acquired. As such, the new law imposed stricter licensing and regulation on the firearms industry, established new categories of firearms offenses, and prohibited the sale of firearms and ammunition to felons and certain other prohibited persons.

The rifle used to kill Dr. King is shown to the press.

More specifically, it led to the rise of the Federal Firearms License for dealers and manufacturers of firearms, banned mail-order firearm sales, required serial numbers on all guns, and prohibited interstate handgun sales. The law also required that all newly manufactured firearms produced by licensed manufacturers in the US, as well as those imported into the country, bear a serial number. Firearms made prior to passage of the Gun Control Act and firearms manufactured by non-FFLs remain exempt from the serial number requirement. This is why many guns from the first half of the 20th century don’t have serial numbers. It’s also why Federal law does not prohibit a person from creating a firearm for their own use from one of the many 80% products on the market today.

Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

When President Johnson signed the bill into law, these were some of his remarks: “Congress adopted most of our recommendations. But this bill – as big as this bill is – still falls short, because we just could not get the Congress to carry out the requests we made of them. I asked for the national registration of all guns and the licensing of those who carry those guns. For the fact of life is that there are over 160 million guns in this country—more firearms than families. If guns are to be kept out of the hands of the criminal, out of the hands of the insane, and out of the hands of the irresponsible, then we just must have licensing. If the criminal with a gun is to be tracked down quickly, then we must have registration in this country. The voices that blocked these safeguards were not the voices of an aroused nation. They were the voices of a powerful lobby, a gun lobby, that has prevailed for the moment in an election year.”

In a contemporaneous issue of American Rifleman magazine, the NRA’s Executive Vice President Franklin Orth opined on the new law. He wrote that even though parts of the law “appear unduly restrictive and unjustified in their application to law-abiding citizens, the measure as a whole appears to be one that the sportsmen of America can live with.”

About Logan MeteshLogan Metesh

Logan Metesh is a historian with a focus on firearms history and development. He runs High Caliber History LLC and has more than a decade of experience working for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the NRA Museums. His ability to present history and research in an engaging manner has made him a sought after consultant, writer, and museum professional. The ease with which he can recall obscure historical facts and figures makes him very good at Jeopardy!, but exceptionally bad at geometry.

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“October 22, 1968” a “date which will live in infamy!” From that date on, America’s gun owners have been barraged, constantly, by any and all anti-gun propositions, incrementally, bit by ever encroaching bit, INFRINGING on the ‘right to keep and bear arms!’


YEP! One of the “days of infamy” that the ANTI-gunners / CONTROLLERS began to apply AGAINST the RIGHTS of Americans which IS covered by the Second Amendment which REAFFIRMS OUR American Citizens the RIGHT to DEFEND OURSELVES against THUGS on the street or THUGS in GOVERNMENT.


Senator Chris Dodd’s father was on the Nazi tribunal after WW2. He received a copy of the Nazi gun control laws. Constitution-hating Chris Dodd used THAT VERY Nazi copy to form the 1968 GCA.
The democrats demand a socialist/communist America.
In a totalitarian Amerika, the slaves will not be allowed to own firearms.

The Tree of Liberty is long over due for a refreshing.

Wild Bill

And not one murder, from that time to this, was prevented by the GCA, but the burden and costs on the law abiding have been astronomical.


Just after the Nazi’s banned firearms they said their streets will now be safer!, we seen just how safe they were, and, gun control must have been effective, not one prisoner in the concentration camps ever shot another inmate

Ryben Flynn

We know what happens when guns are registered as in a few States already. Confiscation and termination, as several tens of millions found out from past Dictators and tyrants.


“…appears to be one that the sportsmen of America can live with”

Sorry to put sand in the Vaseline, but the 2nd Amendment wasn’t (and isn’t) about sporting uses. I’ll give Ortho a tiny break as the ILA wasn’t running back then.

Wild Bill

@RtB, True, and if the vote were limited to the gun owning sportsmen of America the GCA, along with the NFA, would be gone.


One more act by Washington D.C. of the gradual destruction of the 2nd Amendment.


And the beat goes on at NRA BOD.

“As if the National Rifle Association didn’t already have enough problems. Now they have another board member (Tom King) advocating for more gun control. Including gun laws banning everyday Americans from building their own guns at home – something that has been perfectly legal without regulation since before the nation’s founding.“


When the day comes that the American people lose their freedom, the first to cry about not being able to defend themselves from the evil that day brings will be those today that are crying about law abiding citizens owning firearms.
It is a very sad thing that those on the left and their allies who vote “D” automatically, don’t have a shred of fore sight into what they are blindly following.


Dodd;s 1968 law was a translation of NAZI Germany’s 1938 law; which was followed with “Kristallnocht” or night of broken glass when Jewish shops were vandalized.


IIRC, Dodd from CT contributed that gem. (Oops. Just saw hippy biker’s post.)


The author of the GCA 68 was Senator Thomas J. Dodd D CT. He was an Army JAG officer and was involved with the Nuremberg trial and Operation Paperclip. He obtained a copy of the NAZI weapons control act of 1938 and had it translated by the Library of CoNgress. There’s your GCAof 68. Kinda gives you a nice warm feeling. Not! Sig F*cking Heil!


Yep the deep state is not just a “now” thing..they whacked two pesky politicians and one civil rights leader..then they got the gun control act of 1968 as the “Grand Prize”…


Zackley !


LBJ, lousy president.

Wild Bill

@ras, The secretary assigned to LBJ, as vice pres., said that people used to come to his office, in the White House, and leave sealed blank envelopes stuffed with money for him.


Will, You are correct that the NRA supported the GCA of 1968. The paragraph in this article next to the picture of Sirhan Sirhan, is former President Johnson’s remarks .where he states that registration criminals will be tracked down quickly. Also in 1968 was a U.S Supreme Court , U.S. vs Haynes. Haynes was a criminal and went to register his gun, a background check revealed that Haynes was a convicted criminal. Hayne’s case was argued and the US Supreme Court sided with him, he didn’t have to register his gun. This is one reason why criminals don’t go through… Read more »


Now everyone is registering their firearms my so-called background checks on 4473 forms..


I can’t believe Americans use to be able to buy weapons of war.

Molon Labe

“Weapons of war”? You mean like muskets? Get out of here with your garbage talking points.


Before the GCA, in the Washington D.C. area there was a business called “Hunters Lodge” generally accepted as a C.I.A. front.. They bought military surplus from all over and shipped it to where they thought it was needed.. I know it is hard to imagine now, but an individual could mail order a Solothurn anti-tank rifle and it’s live ammo very inexpensively, and have it delivered to their door ! It is understandable that many here are offended by the phrase “weapons of war ” since it is a catch phrase being used against us now. They want to disarm… Read more »

Wild Bill

@Bigdumbowski, Buy them, we used to make them, supply them to individual Army units. The first machine guns were bought by a man whose son was in the Rough Riders, and given to Teddy Roosevelt, for the Cuba campaign. And we still can buy and own them.
Back to the troll farm for reprogramming!


We can even own this:
Even after 85 years of straight up infringements and degradation…. we can STILL get them! God bless America!
amerika (the soviet one that we’ve become…) can go straight to hell. Which is extremely fitting.