Biden rule tightening firearms background checks draws GOP backlash: ‘Gun control regime’

Gun Rights

The Biden administration announced Wednesday it will step up federal background checks and impose license requirements on thousands of gun dealers, regardless of where firearms are sold.

The Justice Department proposed the rule last year to close more “loopholes” for gun sales without licenses or background checks, expanding federal gun control authorities via the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) signed into law by President Biden in June 2022.

“Under this regulation, it will not matter if guns are sold on the internet, at a gun show, or at a brick-and-mortar store: if you sell guns predominantly to earn a profit, you must be licensed, and you must conduct background checks,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

The Biden administration announced that it will tighten federal background checks and impose license requirements for thousands of gun dealers. REUTERS

“I’ve spent hours with families who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence. They all have the same message: ‘Do something,’” Biden, 81, said in a separate statement. “Today, my Administration is taking action to make sure fewer guns are sold without background checks.”

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“This is going to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and felons. And my Administration is going to continue to do everything we possibly can to save lives,” he added. “Congress needs to finish the job and pass universal background checks legislation now.”

Around 80,000 firearms dealers are already federally licensed, while 20,000 gun sellers have been able to peddle their wares without federal involvement, according to the Associated Press.

The bipartisan legislation that led to the rule was negotiated by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Thom Tillis ((R-NC).

But a Cornyn spokesperson told The Post that both GOP senators will seek to “overturn this unconstitutional rule” — and have the support of other Senate Republicans to push for its reversal before it goes into effect in 30 days.

“The administration is acting in a lawless and unconstitutional way, and the vast majority of this rule has nothing to do with the BSCA,” the spokesperson added.

Republicans are slamming the move as an expansion of the president’s “gun control regime.” REUTERS

In a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) last year, Cornyn and Tillis said the rule “flagrantly ignores our agreement, the text, and the blackletter law in an attempt — or power grab — to usurp our Article 1 authority.”

The rule hinges on the text’s reference to those “engaged in the business” of firearms sales, which the GOP senators say concerned only sellers who work “to predominantly earn a profit” rather than those “with the principal objective of livelihood and profit.”

“We drafted this provision to codify the ATF’s existing guidance to firearms dealers. This underscores how far afield the ATF is with the proposed rule,” Cornyn and Tillis wrote.

A spokesperson for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told The Post that he and Thom Tillis will seek to “overturn this unconstitutional rule.” AFP via Getty Images
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) hailed the tightening, saying it “will significantly increase the number of background checks performed and help keep guns out of dangerous hands.” Getty Images

“Our goal was to provide the American people with predictability and clarity in the law, not to give the ATF an opportunity to impose a gun control regime on law-abiding Americans,” the Republican lawmakers added.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) will also be leading a House challenge to the rule under the Congressional Review Act.

Randy Kozuch, executive director for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, told The Post in a statement that the rule was “the latest Biden administration attack on law-abiding gun owners.”

He also called it “a blatant attempt to coerce Americans to forgo legal activity with firearms under threat of potential confiscation of their lawfully-acquired and constitutionally protected property.”

“NRA is already working to use all means available to stop this unlawful rule,” Kozuch added, noting that it “in some cases, expressly contradicts the statutory text.”

Murphy, a staunch gun control proponent, hailed the rule in a statement, saying it “will significantly increase the number of background checks performed and help keep guns out of dangerous hands.”

“For too long, the law allowed individuals who were clearly in business as a firearms dealer to sell guns for profit without conducting background checks, permitting thousands of gun sales to fly under the radar each year,” he added.

“That’s why our legislation made this important change to expand background checks by broadening the definition of who is engaged in the business. This rule brings us closer to the goal of universal background checks and will save lives.”

Biden signed the law in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting in May 2022, when 18-year-old Salvador Ramos shot and killed 19 children and two teachers and injured 17 others at Robb Elementary School.

The bipartisan legislation that led to the rule was negotiated by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) along with Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). Getty Images

More than 68,000 firearms were illegally trafficked into the US between 2017 and 2021, ATF data show, with 370 of those guns sold being later used in shootings.

Sinema’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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