A proposed rule from the Biden administration aimed at combating rising gun violence across the U.S. could require thousands more firearms dealers to run background checks if approved.
Last year, Biden signed the most significant gun control bill in nearly 30 years, which incentivized states to pass red flag laws and expand background checks for 18- to 21-year-olds.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was created to prevent mass shootings in the U.S., was passed through the House with a 234-193 vote, with 14 Republicans crossing party lines. The bill was then sent to Biden’s desk to be signed.
On March 14, Biden issued an executive order directing Attorney General Merrick Garland to develop and implement a plan clarifying the definition of who is engaged in the business of dealing firearms, requiring them to obtain a federal firearms license.
As a result, the proposed rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) would require those who sell firearms online or at gun shows to be licensed and run background checks on buyers before completing the transaction.
The Associated Press reported that the bureau estimates the rule would affect between 24,500 and 328,000 sellers and targets those in the business of selling guns, not with personal gun collections.
"The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was passed by Congress to reduce gun violence, including by expanding the background checks that keep guns out of the hands of criminals," Garland said. "This proposed rule implements Congress’s mandate to expand the definition of who must obtain a license and conduct a background check before selling firearms."
ATF Director Steven Dettelbach said the number of individuals engaging in the business of selling firearms for profit and choosing not to register as federal firearms licensees has increased.
Instead, he said, they choose 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," Dettelbach said. "This new proposed rule would clarify the circumstances in which a person is ‘engaged in the business’ of dealing in firearms, and thus required to obtain a license and follow the laws Congress has established for firearms dealers."
A recent AP-NORC poll conducted between Aug. 10-14, 2023, found that nearly two-thirds of the public is in favor of stricter gun laws, compared to just a third of Republicans.
The survey also found more than three-quarters of the 1,165 adults polled nationwide think preventing mass shootings and reducing gun violence is important, and most believe restricting gun access would result in fewer mass shootings, murders and violent crime.
Republicans, though, remain unconvinced that restricting gun access would result in fewer mass shootings and less violent crime, the poll found.
The Associated Press reported that since the start of 2023, there have been at least 33 mass killings in the U.S., leaving at least 163 people dead, not including shootings who died, according to a database maintained by the AP and USA Today with Northeastern University.
Last weekend, a White man wearing a mask fired a weapon with a swastika on it at three Black people, killing them in Jacksonville, Florida.
The shooter, who killed himself, purchased the weapons legally despite being involuntarily committed for a mental health exam.
Gun rights groups have argued the proposed rule would do little to stop the gun violence program. The same advocates have quickly sued over other ATF rule changes that they argue infringe on their Second Amendment right.
The proposed rule, which can be viewed on the ATF website, will be open for public comment for 90 days.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.