US federal judge blocks Biden-backed rule that aimed to end ‘gun show loophole’, says rule fails to provide exemptions

Gun Rights
May 20, 2024 01:08 PM IST

US judge blocks Biden-backed rule expanding gun background checks during exhibits and online shopping.

In a significant legal development, a federal judge has temporarily blocked the Biden administration from fully implementing a new rule that would expand gun background checks to cover sales at gun shows and online. This decision was made by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas on Sunday.

A person looks at guns at an exhibition booth during the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) meeting in Dallas, Texas, U.S., May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Shelby Tauber(REUTERS)
A person looks at guns at an exhibition booth during the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) meeting in Dallas, Texas, U.S., May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Shelby Tauber(REUTERS)

The rule, endorsed by President Joe Biden, aimed to require gun dealers to obtain licenses and conduct background checks for firearm sales conducted at gun shows and over the internet. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was set to enforce this rule starting Monday. However, Judge Kacsmaryk’s restraining order halts its implementation in Texas and among members of several gun rights groups.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, welcomed the ruling, stating, “I am relieved that we were able to secure a restraining order that will prevent this illegal rule from taking effect.”

What is the Biden-backed rule on Gun licences

The lawsuit, brought by Texas along with gun rights advocates and three other Republican-led states, challenges a rule finalized last month. The Biden administration had argued that the rule would impact over 23,000 unlicensed dealers and numerous gun sales annually, effectively closing the so-called “gun show loophole.” This loophole currently allows some firearm transactions to occur without background checks.

Under the new rule, individuals selling firearms at gun shows, other venues, and online would be required to adhere to the same background check requirements as traditional gun stores.

Judge’s observation for cancelling new gun licence rule

In his ruling, Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, sided with the plaintiffs argued that the rule’s provisions were inconsistent with the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022, a law that expanded the category of gun sellers required to obtain licenses. He criticized the rule for failing to provide exemptions for individuals buying or selling guns for personal protection, stating that it rendered the statute’s safe harbor provision ineffective for most gun owners.

The order specifically benefits members of gun rights groups like the Gun Owners of America, which claims 2 million members. However, Kacsmaryk found that Louisiana, Mississippi, and Utah did not have sufficient standing to challenge the rule, and thus, the rule remains enforceable in those states.

Kacsmaryk’s order is effective until June 2, pending further litigation. As the only active judge in Amarillo, he has become a preferred adjudicator for conservative litigants contesting federal policies under the Biden administration. Notably, Kacsmaryk previously made headlines by suspending the approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to be put on hold while the case is under consideration.

This ruling represents a notable legal hurdle for the Biden administration’s efforts to strengthen gun control measures in the United States. The ongoing legal battle underscores the deep divisions and contentious debates surrounding gun regulation in the country.

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