US to end gun sales without background checks

The Biden administration has announced a significant tightening of regulations around firearm sales, targeting the so-called “gun show loophole” that has previously allowed thousands of guns sales without federal background checks at gun shows and online. This change will reclassify approximately 23,000 vendors as licensed firearms dealers, thereby requiring them to perform background checks prior to selling firearms.

Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized the administration’s stance, stating, “If you sell guns predominantly to earn a profit, you must be licensed.” This move is part of a broader effort by the administration to curb gun violence, which continues to be a pressing issue across the country.

Despite the anticipated legal challenges from pro-gun organizations, the administration remains confident in the legality of its actions. An unnamed administration official highlighted that similar measures taken by the president to address gun violence have largely been upheld by various courts, reinforcing their optimism regarding the outcome of expected legal battles.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has already signaled its intent to contest the new regulations vigorously. This opposition is also echoed by some Republican senators who have voiced concerns about the constitutionality of the new rule.

Attorney General Garland described the regulation as a “historic step” aimed at saving lives, citing federal data that shows a growing number of firearms found at crime scenes are sourced from illegal or black-market operations. Vice President Kamala Harris, who leads the Office on Gun Violence Prevention, criticized the longstanding inaction against unlicensed dealers who have bypassed the need for background checks.

President Joe Biden has also called upon Congress to support these efforts by passing comprehensive universal background check legislation, emphasizing the urgency and importance of closing existing loopholes.

This regulatory change is set to be implemented 30 days after its publication in the federal registry later this week. It draws legal support from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022, which received cross-party support following two tragic mass shootings in May 2022. These incidents, which occurred at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and a school in Uvalde, Texas, significantly influenced the bipartisan effort to redefine the scope of who qualifies as a firearm dealer under federal law.

However, resistance remains. Senator John Cornyn, alongside Senator Thom Tillis, both of whom were instrumental in the negotiation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, plan to challenge the administration’s interpretation of the law. They argue that the new regulation oversteps the intended scope of the original legislation and have proposed a joint resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to halt its implementation.

Amid these debates, Randy Kozuch, the director of the NRA’s legal branch, has called the regulation an “unjust attack on law-abiding gun owners,” vowing to exhaust all available legal avenues to oppose what he views as an unlawful rule.

This regulatory shift comes in a context where the U.S. already has around 80,000 licensed firearms dealers who are mandated to conduct background checks, juxtaposed against an alarming rate of more than 40,000 gun-related deaths recorded last year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The administration’s move is a clear signal of its commitment to tightening gun sales and control measures in an effort to reduce gun violence and improve public safety.

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