Biden administration seeks to close the 'gun show loophole' to buy firearms

WASHINGTON — In what could be the biggest expansion of federal background checks in decades, the Biden administration is moving to end the controversial “gun-show loophole.”

“This single gap in our federal background check system has caused unimaginable pain and suffering,” said Vice President Kamala Harris in a call with reporters.

On Thursday, the Justice Department will submit a new 466-page regulation to the Federal Register outlining that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will require anyone “engaged in the business” of selling guns at a profit to register as a federally licensed firearms dealer and run background criminal and mental health checks on buyers. A senior administration official said the new rule updates the definition of “engaged in the business” as a firearms dealer laid out by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and provides clarity on who must obtain a license.

In a video posted on X Thursday, President Joe Biden said: “Congress needs to finish the job and pass universal background check legislation now.”

ATF Director Steven Dettelbach said the change is set to take effect in a month. It will likely face legal challenges, though the administration argues the rule will hold up in court by using a provision of the sweeping gun control law Congress passed in 2022.

“This final rule does not infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights and it will not negatively impact the many law abiding licensed firearms dealers in our nation,” Dettelbach said.

Advocates have been intensifying calls for the move since the 2022 mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and it comes as the Biden campaign seeks to highlight the administration’s efforts to reduce gun violence. Last month, Harris visited Parkland, Florida, and met families whose loved ones were murdered during the 2018 mass shooting there. In December, the vice president also brought together nearly 100 state legislators from 39 states to launch an initiative that would provide states with additional tools to advance gun safety measures. In September, Biden established the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

“This is maybe the most impactful change made possible by the 2022 gun safety bill,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has been outspoken about the issue since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

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