Included as a fundamental right in the U.S. Constitution, firearms have played a pivotal role in America’s history and culture. But federal gun control laws were largely nonexistent until well into the Twentieth Century.

In the last two decades, however, gun control has emerged as one of the most explosive, divisive issues in American politics. Debates grow particularly fierce in the wake of mass killings, the most recent of which occurred in early October at an Oregon community college, where a gunman killed nine people.

Scroll through this timeline to learn more about the prickly history of firearms regulation in America.

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