May 09, 2023

Wyden, Colleagues Urging ATF to Fully Implement Federal Rules to Help Close the Gun Seller Background Check Loophole

Letter comes as the nation reels from another weekend of horrific gun violence

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today joined colleagues to urge the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to implement federal rules to help close the gun seller background check loophole.

“Today, we write to highlight one directive in particular: the President’s clarion call to clarify the definition of who is “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms—a step that moves us closer to closing the background check loophole. The background check loophole in federal law permits unlicensed gun sellers—those who are not “engaged in the business” of dealing in the firearms—to sell guns without conducting a background check on the purchaser. These sellers have, for decades, taken advantage of commercial marketplaces, like gun shows, to turn a profit by funneling firearms into the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers, gun traffickers, and other prohibited persons,” the lawmakers wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland and ATF Director Steve Dettelbach.

In their letter, the lawmakers cite President Biden’s executive order in March, which was the most recent call to action urging the ATF to implement rule-making as outlined by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Specially, the lawmakers ask ATF to clarify rules around who is classified as a gun seller so that whether an individual is buying a firearm from a brick-and-mortar store, or at a gun show or online, that they would be subject to a background check. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, of the over nine million posts on Armslist, 68 percent of the posts listed firearms for sales. Of those posts, 78 percent were by unlicensed sellers.

“To that end, we write to encourage the Department and ATF to heed the President’s directive and move swiftly to finish the job that Congress started. We believe that the Department and ATF should both issue guidance and complete a rulemaking that makes clear who is “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms under BSCA,” added the lawmakers. “We also believe that this guidance and rulemaking should include a presumption that individuals making commercial sales—whether at a gun show or an online marketplace—are ‘engaged in the business’ and required to become licensed. In addition, we urge the Department and ATF to further define the ‘occasional sales,’ ‘personal collection,’ and ‘hobby’ exceptions to the ‘engaged in the business’ rule. These exceptions should now be read pursuant to how BSCA narrowed the definition.”

The letter comes on the heels of a deadly mass shooting this past Saturday in Allen, Texas, and as the anniversary approaches for the Buffalo supermarket shooting that killed 10 people on May 14, 2022 and the Uvalde school shooting that killed 19 Texas fourth graders and two teachers on May 24, 2022. The BSCA—the first significant federal gun safety legislation in 30 years—was signed into law by President Biden on June 25, 2022.

The letter was led in the Senate by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J. Along with Wyden, the letter was signed by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Angus S. King, Jr., I-Maine, Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Peter Welch, D-Vt., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bob Casey, Jr., D-Pa.

Endorsing groups include Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The letter is HERE.