How to . . .
find laws, acts, or statutes
You can read the full text of recent public and private laws on the web, you can order them from the Senate or House Document Rooms, or you can find copies of laws in a library.
A law may also be referred to as an act (such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act) or as a statute. An important note to remember is that laws get amended over the years, which means that the language of a law can be changed, added to, or deleted. If you want to read a law that is currently in force--that is, the amended version of the law--you will want to look at the United States Code.
The full text of more recent laws are on the GPO FDsys and THOMAS websites:
GPO FDsys provides the full text of public and private laws from the 104th Congress (1995-1996) to the current Congress.
THOMAS provides the full text of laws from the 101st Congress (1989-1990) to the current Congress. For laws from the 104th Congress (1995-1996) to the present Congress, there is a link to the Public Law via the GPO FDsys site. For laws from the 101st to the 103rd Congress (1993-1994), the law is presented in the form of the enrolled bill, which is the final version of a bill that is is the final copy of the bill that has been passed in identical form by both the House and Senate and then sent to the president for his signature. THOMAS also contains summaries of public laws from the 93rd Congress (1973-1974) to the 100th Congress (1987-1988).
The Senate and House Document Rooms may be able to provide you with a copy of a slip law. Check with them for availability.
At the end of each session of Congress, public laws are published in annual volumes called the United States Statutes at Large, which are published by the Government Printing Office. A more timely resource for finding the text of laws as originally passed by Congress is U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (U.S.C.C.A.N.), which is a commercial publication. Like the Statutes at Large, U.S.C.C.A.N. may be available at large public libraries or federal depository libraries.
Public laws may be available in large library systems or college libraries, frequently as a part of their participation in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). Over 1,100 libraries participate in the FDLP, collecting and/or providing public access to government documents. A list of depository libraries is available on GPO's website. Since most depository libraries are within a university or state library, calling ahead to ask about hours is advised.