Several recent mass shootings including the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead and a racist attack on a supermarket in Buffalo that left 10 dead, reignited the national debate over stricter gun regulations.
One viral tweet with 190,000 likes claimed a person could buy thousands of rounds of ammunition with no background check, but the same person’s name would go in a national database if they bought one box of Sudafed, which is a brand name for a cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine.
That wasn’t the only post to make such a comparison. Several other posts with thousands of likes similarly compared allowable quantities of Sudafed with the lack of limits when purchasing a gun.
Are there more federal restrictions on the amount of Sudafed you can buy than the amount of guns or ammunition you can buy?
MedlinePlus, an online health information resource run by the National Library of Medicine
Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit that supports greater gun regulation
Center for American Progress, a nonprofit that supports greater gun regulation
Yes, there are monthly and daily federal limits on the amount of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, including Sudafed, a person can buy, while there are no federal limits for the number of guns or ammunition a person can buy.
WHAT WE FOUND
Federal law limits the amount of certain products containing pseudoephedrine that consumers can purchase in a one-day and 30-day period.
There is no federal limit on the number of guns consumers can buy, although licensed gun dealers must report to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local law enforcement if the same person buys multiple handguns at the same time or within five consecutive business days.
There is also no federal limit on the amount of ammunition consumers can buy. There are no reporting or record-keeping requirements for ammunition, either.
A few states do put restrictions on the amount of handguns people can buy in a month. There are also a few states that have laws requiring ammunition retailers to keep records of their sales.
Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed and other decongestant medicines)
Pseudoephedrine is an active ingredient in many medicines that relieve nasal congestion caused by colds, allergies and hay fever, MedlinePlus, an online health information resource run by the National Library of Medicine, says. Products that contain pseudoephedrine include any Sudafed product not branded as PE, along with other medicines such as Claritin-D, Aleve-D Sinus and Cold and Mucinex D.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that pseudoephedrine is also an ingredient in the production of methamphetamine, and medications that contain the ingredient are frequently used in illegal meth production.
In 2006, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began to enforce the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which regulated over-the-counter sales of medications that contain pseudoephedrine. The act includes provisions that oversee how medications containing pseudoephedrine are sold, stored and how sales are recorded.
According to the law, customers are restricted to purchasing no more than 3.6 grams of products containing pseudoephedrine per day, and no more than nine grams over a 30-day period. A person could buy one box of Sudafed Sinus 12 Hour Pressure + Pain to reach the daily limit, or could buy two 48-count boxes and one 24-count box of Sudafed Sinus Congestion to purchase exactly 3.6 grams of Sudafed.
Medications containing pseudoephedrine must also be stored in an area that customers can’t access. That’s why they are often sold from behind the pharmacy counter or found in locked cabinets.
Although pharmacists are required by federal law to keep a logbook of purchases of medicine containing pseudoephedrine, that same law does not require there be a national database linking each pharmacy’s logs together. Even so, states, pharmacies and a data company called Appriss Insights partnered to create a national database used by most states and pharmacies.
Appriss Insights developed the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEx) in 2006 to help states comply with the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act. According to Appriss, NPLEx has been used by 38 states to comply with the act, as well as two other states which use it voluntarily. Appriss estimates it tracks 80% of pseudoephedrine transactions throughout the U.S.
There are no federal laws that limit how many firearms a person can purchase.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), which publishes a summary of current federal gun regulations, does not list any federal limit on the number of firearms a person can purchase. The Giffords Law Center, a nonprofit that advocates for stricter gun laws, says there is no federal limit on the amount of guns an individual may purchase at any one time.
There is a federal requirement that licensed firearms dealers notify the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and local law enforcement of sales of multiple handguns within a five-day period to any individual.
However, the ATF notes there are no federal recordkeeping requirements for the transfer of a firearm between two individuals who are not federal firearms licensees. The U.S. Concealed Carry Association explains that someone who is unlicensed may sell a firearm to another unlicensed person in their state of residence. An unlicensed person is not required to report sales of multiple handguns to the same person to the ATF or law enforcement.
When a person buys a firearm from a licensed dealer — a gun shop, for example — they must first display a photo ID and undergo an instant background check, according to the ATF. This background check is typically instant, but the federal government can sometimes take up to three days to complete the background check.
The background check is put in place to make sure the person attempting to purchase the gun isn’t prohibited from doing so. Some groups of people, such as felons or people dishonorably discharged from the military, are prohibited by federal law from buying firearms. Additionally, the federal government says a person must be at least 18 to buy a shotgun or a rifle, and must be at least 21 to buy any other type of gun, such as a handgun.
In 2021, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) immediately determined whether a potential buyer could legally purchase a gun in almost 90% of background check requests. Once the NICS makes a determination, the buyer is free to complete their purchase without a limitation on the number of guns they can buy so long as state and local laws allow it.
Ammunition retailers are not required to keep a record of ammunition sales and individuals are not limited to caps on the amount of ammunition they can buy over any period of time.
Currently, federal law simply stipulates a gun shop or other licensed firearms dealer must confirm a person is not prohibited from buying one before selling the person ammunition. The buyer is then free to buy as much ammunition as they want, and there is no requirement the dealer report an ammunition purchase, including large quantities of ammunition, to a government authority.
According to Giffords Law Center and the Center for American Progress, both of which support greater federal ammunition regulation, retailers who sell ammunition but not guns are not required to be federally licensed, and people purchasing ammunition are not required to provide a photo ID or pass a background check. Ammunition retailers are not required to keep a record of ammunition sales and individuals are not limited to caps on the amount of ammunition they can buy over any period of time.
In its list of federal ammunition laws, the U.S. Concealed Carry Association does not list any law that limits the amount of ammunition a person can purchase. It also does not list any laws that would require a background check before a person can buy ammunition, or any law that would require an ammunition dealer to keep a record of their sales.
Federal law prohibits the same groups of people from purchasing ammunition as it prohibits from purchasing firearms. It also bans the manufacture and sale of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor. The only other major federal ammunition restriction is a law that prohibits federal firearm licensees from selling handgun ammunition “to any person the dealer has reasonable cause to believe” is under 21, and unlicensed individuals from selling or transferring handgun ammunition to anyone they know or have “reasonable cause to believe” is under 18.
While there are no federal laws limiting the amount of guns or bullets people can buy, several states do have their own laws limiting firearm purchases. Some states also track ammunition sales.
California, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey all have laws that limit at least some types of firearm purchases to one per month, according to the Giffords Law Center. California law, for example, limits people purchasing handguns to no more than one in any 30-day period, with some exceptions.
Giffords says California and New York have passed laws requiring point-of-sale background checks on ammunition purchasers, in a manner similar to background checks conducted on firearm purchasers. Four states — Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey — require individuals to obtain a relevant license or permit, after passing a background check, in order to purchase or possess some types of ammunition.
Additionally, California, Washington, D.C., New York and New Jersey all have laws requiring ammunition retailers to keep records of each ammunition sale they make.
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