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ATF Background Check Rule Tries to Close Gun-Show Loophole

Following through on the 2022 federal firearms legislation that sought to expand gun-purchase background checks, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives proposed regulations that require more gun-show sellers to run checks on buyers, the Wall Street Journal reports. The proposal would require anyone who earns a profit selling guns to get a federal license and mandate background checks. Under current rules, private dealers have been able to sell tens of thousands of firearms each year out of their homes, at gun shows and flea markets and through websites without running such checks. Private sellers are now required only to obtain licenses if they earn their livelihood dealing in firearms. By expanding the definition of who is "engaged in the business" of selling firearms, the Biden administration is trying to make good on its campaign pledge to address gun violence and to satisfy gun-safety advocates who have long complained that people ineligible to buy guns can evade the law in a vast underground market.

The proposed rule, which now undergoes a 90-day public comment period, drew opposition from gun groups. Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun-industry trade group, said it appeared to exceed what was outlined in the bill that Congress passed. “It would also sweep in ordinary citizens to now require them to obtain a federal firearms license,” he said. “That’s not what the statute provided, or Congress intended.” ATF Director Steven Dettelbach said the policy targets an increasing number of sellers who earn a profit selling guns but have chosen not to register and instead make money through off-book, illicit sales. “These activities undermine the law, endanger public safety, create significant burdens on law enforcement and are unfair to the many licensed dealers who make considerable efforts to follow the law,” Dettelbach said. Since Biden signed the 2022 firearms legislation, the widest in decades, he has struggled to advance priorities in Congress such as universal background checks. The president has also called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as ending immunity from liability for gun manufacturers.


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