How to Use the Repository

How to Search

There are many ways to search the laws in the Repository.

  1. Text. The text search tool will return results containing any word entered in the search box. This is the equivalent of adding "or" between words.
  2. Topic. Laws are tagged with a variety of topical headers that are available on a drop-down menu. Selecting a single topic, with no other search restrictions, will return all laws on that topic, along with a brief explanatory note about the general trend of regulation.
  3. Jurisdiction. Laws are coded by jurisdiction; multiple jurisdictions can be selected.
  4. Year. The Repository contains laws from Circa 605 A.D. until 1934 (the year of the first substantial federal gun regulation). Searches can be limited to a particular year or range of years.

These search methods can be combined—all of a jurisdiction's gun regulations within a range of years, for example—and initial results can be further refined.

How to interpret results

The Repository is a significant but not comprehensive collection of historical gun regulations. Search results must be interpreted with that limitation in mind. Moreover, because it only includes the text of gun regulations, the Repository does not contain all of the information necessary to measure the significance of those regulations.

Among the most important omissions are: 

  • Reenactment, revision, and repeal. Legislatures frequently reenact, revise, and repeal laws, and the Repository does not comprehensively reflect these changes. Reasonable effort has been made to obtain and cite the earliest enactment of any given law.
  • Court decisions. The Repository does not contain case law. Some of the regulations listed here have been the subject of judicial interpretation or abrogation.
  • Enforcement. The Repository does not reflect the degree to which laws were actively enforced, nor does it capture executive actions that may have altered their impact.
  • Context and cross-references. Some gun regulations are themselves referenced by other laws, which may provide elaborations of the regulations, or exceptions to them. The Repository does not, and cannot, fully provide the context necessary to accurately interpret a regulation’s significance

The Repository is intended to be a tool for lawyers, scholars, and anyone interested in learning more about the history of gun rights and regulation. Given the limitations of this text-only resource, we urge users to supplement their results with further legal and historical research.

Copyright and Reuse

This repository is meant to facilitate research and scholarship. To that end, we offer the following guidance for users on copyright and reuse of the materials found here.

This Repository primarily consist of the text of statutes and associated metadata that identifies and describes those statutes. Most of this metadata is not protected by copyright because it either expresses only objective facts (which are not original) or constitutes expression so limited by the number of ways the underlying ideas can be expressed that such expression has merged with those ideas.

Likewise, the statutory texts included here are edicts of government and are themselves not subject to copyright protection. However, to encourage reuse of this metadata and to remove doubt about reuse, we hereby waive any and all copyright in the contents of this database under a CC0 Public Domain Dedication.

You are free to reuse the metadata and the statutory texts you find on this site however you wish. However, we encourage you, when reasonably possible, to attribute your use as follows:

"Repository of Historical Gun Laws, Duke University School of Law, https://law.duke.edu/gunlaws/"