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Biden administration closes ‘gun show loophole’ for background checks

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In a significant development announced Thursday, the Biden administration unveiled a new federal regulation aimed at broadening the scope of firearm sales subjected to federal licensing requirements.

What is The measure effectively closes the widely criticized “gun show loophole,” which previously allowed dealers and online retailers to sell tens of thousands of firearms annually without conducting background checks.

Under this new rule, any dealer engaged in firearm sales that would necessitate a license in a traditional brick-and-mortar store must now adhere to the same standards, whether selling at gun shows, from home, or from a vehicle. Violators of this regulation face penalties of up to five years in prison, a fine reaching $250,000, or both.

President Joe Biden emphasized the imperative for action, citing numerous encounters with families impacted by gun violence. He underscored the regulation’s potential to prevent firearms from falling into the hands of domestic abusers and felons. Biden called upon Congress to expedite the passage of universal background check legislation to further bolster gun safety measures.

Statistics from the Justice Department highlight a stark contrast between over 80,000 licensed gun dealers and an estimated 20,000 unlicensed ones operating across the United States. The regulation, initially met with resistance from gun advocacy groups when proposed last summer, is expected to encounter substantial legal challenges.

This move unfolds against the backdrop of a staggering annual toll of over 40,000 fatal shootings in the U.S., including suicides. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 2023 witnessed 656 mass shootings, the second-highest on record after 2021. The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives identifies unlicensed dealers as a primary source of illegally trafficked firearms, which have been implicated in nearly 370 shootings between 2017 and 2021.

Vice President Kamala Harris, a vocal proponent of the administration’s initiatives on gun violence, underscored the significance of the new regulation in potentially averting tragedies. Harris urged Congress to enact comprehensive measures including universal background checks, red flag laws, and restrictions on semi-automatic weapons, echoing the enduring urgency since the Columbine High School massacre.

The regulatory authority for this action stems from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, signed into law by President Biden in 2022 following a deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The act reinforced background checks for young gun buyers, addressed firearm access for domestic violence offenders, and facilitated the implementation of red flag laws at the state level. The administration underscores that the new rule seeks to mandate background checks for commercial firearm transactions while safeguarding occasional sales from personal collections, affirming its alignment with Second Amendment rights and existing regulations.

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