Biden administration proposes rule aimed at curbing the ‘gun show loophole’

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The Biden administration on Thursday proposed a rule intended to require people selling firearms at gun shows and on the internet to conduct background checks on potential buyers, in an effort to curb the so-called gun show loophole.

The proposal comes a little more than a year after President Joe Biden signed into law the first major federal gun safety legislation passed in decades, which, among other things, expanded which sellers are required to run background checks before making a sale.

Under the new rule unveiled by the Justice Department, some private sellers may no longer fall within the background check exception, with the department saying the guidance “identifies examples of conduct that would, in certain circumstances, be presumed to qualify as engaging in the business of dealing in firearms and thus to require a federal firearms license,” which would mean the seller must run background checks ahead of sales.

“An increasing number of individuals engaged in the business of selling firearms for profit have chosen not to register as federal firearms licensees, as required by law,” Steven Dettelbach, the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said in a statement.

“Instead, they have sought to make money through the off-book, illicit sale of firearms. 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,” he said.

The Justice Department said in a release that the proposed rule also adds a definition of “personal firearms collection,” exempting from the background check requirement “genuine hobbyists and collectors” who may want to “enhance and liquidate their collections without fear of violating the law.”

The gun-violence prevention group Brady said in a statement that the proposed rule closes “a massive loophole in our life-saving background checks system.”

“It is past time to ensure that anyone who sells firearms for profits is required to be licensed and that their sales of firearms are subject to a Brady Background Check,” said Kris Brown, Brady’s president.

While Vice President Kamala Harris applauded the proposed rule, she called on lawmakers to take further steps to reduce gun violence.

“Congress must pass legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require safe gun storage, end immunity from liability for gun manufacturers, and require background checks on all gun sales—even those by gun dealers who are not registered,” she said in a statement Thursday.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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