Firearms regulations aim at establishing control over the lifecycle of firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition. The regulatory regimes encompass the stages of firearms manufacturing, possession, use, safe-keeping, transfers, and subsequently de-activation or destruction. The principles of control over the firearms are defined through both firearms policies, strategies and action plans, as well as in firearms legislation, including primary and secondary acts where the latter provide for the implementation of the primary legislation and the establishment of firearms related institutions and infrastructure.
The national regulatory regimes do not exist in isolation and they are strongly influenced by the normative developments at sub-regional, regional and global levels as explained in Module 5 (International Legal Framework). National legislators are tasked to harmonize the domestic norms with the legally binding international instruments and to reflect, where appropriate, the political obligations stemming from the non-legally binding agreements. Several organizations have developed various legislative tools to assist in the process of harmonization and implementation, which are presented with specific examples in a later section of this Module. However, as seen in Module 5, these different instruments have been adopted in different contexts and with specific scopes and objectives, which are narrower than the entire range of firearms regulations, and thus leave areas for national legislators and policymakers to define and enforce on their own.
The key issues examined in the following sections of this Module are: