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Justice Department announces new rule to close ‘gun show loophole’

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the publication of a new rule in the federal register, which after it becomes effective in 30 days will expand the circumstances wherein individuals need to obtain Federal Firearm Licenses (FFL) and perform background checks to sell guns.

The rule adds definitions to certain statutory terms enacted by Congress in the Safer Communities Act, legislation championed by Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that became law in 2022 and was billed as a solution to prevent mass shootings.

Under the proposed rule, private individuals will still be allowed to buy or sell a firearm without being a licensed dealer as long as they only make “occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms.”

However, if a person represents to a prospective buyer that they can obtain more firearms for them to choose from, spends more than their reported taxable income on firearms, repeatedly sells firearms after owning them less than 30 days, creates records to track the profit and loss from firearm sales, rents a table at a gun show, and any combination additional elements, that individual is required to obtain an FFL and conduct background checks on the sales.

Prohibiting private sellers from renting tables at gun shows has been a priority for the Biden administration.

“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,” Garland said in a statement announcing the rule. “This regulation is a historic step in the Justice Department’s fight against gun violence. It will save lives.”

Texas Gun Sense, which advocates for tighter restrictions on firearms, issued a statement applauding the new rule, writing, “Requiring background checks on gun sales is a common sense measure supported by the majority of Americans. It's especially important in states like Texas, where background checks are not required for private sales, including those at gun shows and online.”

Gun Owners of America (GOA) slammed the proposed rule in a series of posts on social media, writing that its broad application violates the Second Amendment, and promised legal action.

“[The] ATF can't even promise that we won't need a federal firearms license, a background check, & gun registration records to sell just one gun to a family member. This rule is an infringement on the Second Amendment, & undermines private firearm sales, which are legal in 30 plus states,” GOA posted.

According to the DOJ, the new rule will become effective in 30 days. During a public comment period on creating the proposed rule last year, some 338,000 responses were submitted by the public.

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