Guns have played a role in American history and culture since the country's beginnings. Here's a look back at the history of guns -- and gun control -- in America.
1791: Congress adopts 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including the 10 that are known as the Bill of Rights. Among those rights is the Second Amendment, or the right to keep and bear arms.
The amendment is thought to have been influenced by the English Bill of Rights. Its intentions has been disputed, with opponents arguing that "well-regulated militia" allows firearms regulation, with supporters placing emphasis on the second clause.
In its historic 1856 Dred Scott decision, the U.S. Supreme Court stated it would give slaves who are recognized as U.S. citizens the "full liberty" to keep and carry guns wherever they went.
After the assassinations of the Kennedys, and M.L.King Jr., in the 60s, President L.Johnson signed the Gun Control Act: regulating the firearms industry by banning interstate firearms transfers except among licensed manufacturers, dealers, importers.
In the 90s, gun politics changed in response to two deadly standoffs involving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms -- the 1993 Wago siege involving the Branch Davidian compound in Texas and the Ruby Ridge siege in northern Idaho in 1992.
1993: President Bill Clinton signed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which instituted federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States, after a man was shot in an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
One year later in 1994, Clinton signed a 10-year federal assault weapons ban into law that prohibited the manufacture of such firearms for civilian use. The ban only applied to weapons manufactured after the date of the ban's enactment.
The ban on assault weapons expired in 2004 as part of the law's sunset provision. There have been multiple attempts to renew the ban, but no bill has reached the floor for a vote.
The U.S. Supreme Court entered the gun control debate in 2008, ruling that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia.
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court made another landmark decision in the gun control debate, ruling that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government.
In the past, polls have found a majority of Americans do not support stricter gun laws. But that support has reached a five-year high in the aftermath of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut that left 27 dead.
Also, a petition pressing Congress for tighter restrictions on gun ownership has garnered more signatures than any other ever posted to the White House's website. As of Monday afternoon, more than 150,700 people had signed it.