The ‘Gun Show Loophole’ Is Coming To An End Thanks to Biden – Here’s What That Means For Unlicensed Gun Dealers

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The Biden Administration is moving one step closer to making universal background checks a reality. While the new rule – which was submitted by the Department of Justice on Tuesday – won’t fully accomplish that goal, it will rid the industry of the highly controversial ‘gun show loophole.’ Here’s what that means for gun dealers in the US.

What Is The ‘Gun Show Loophole?’

If you were to purchase a gun through a licensed gun shop, they would run a background check first to ensure you’re eligible to own a gun. Without the background check, dangerous people would be allowed to purchase a gun with ease. 

Source: Flickr/Terry J. Allen

While background checks are required at formal gun shops, they aren’t required at gun shows, online, and other informal venues – this is what people refer to as the ‘gun show loophole,’ or ‘private sale exemption.’ Anyone can purchase a gun without being vetted first.

Americans Have Been Calling For Change

The ‘gun show loophole’ has been at the heart of many debates over the past few decades – then-President Bill Clinton spoke about the ‘loophole’ in a memorandum for the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General in November 1998.

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George W. Bush also supported background checks at gun shows during his presidency, while Barack Obama outlined proposals to bring an end to it. Even Donald Trump advocated for tighter background check laws – but none of them achieved what Biden is about to.

May 2022: Shooting At Buffalo Supermarket Kills 10

On May 14, 2022, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron opened fire inside a Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The shooter killed 10 people and injured three others – all those who died were African American.

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Gendron was armed with a Bushmaster XM-15 AR-15-style rifle and was wearing body armor, a military helmet, and a head-mounted camera. Part of the mass shooting was streamed on Twitch, and police officers say he yelled racial slurs during the killing spree.

May 2022: Uvalde School Shooting Claims 19 Lives

On May 24, 2022, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Ramos, a former student at the school, shot and injured his grandmother before making his way to the elementary school.

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He shot and killed 19 children and two teachers and injured 17 others in the attack. The United States Border Patrol Tactical Unit shot and killed Ramos after more than an hour of chaos. He was armed with an AR-15-style rifle.

June 2022: Biden Passes Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

On June 25, 2022, roughly one month after the Uvalde school shooting, President Joe Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) – a gun safety, mental health, and school safety bill that will help prevent gun violence.

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

The bill effectively enhanced background checks for buyers under 21, supported state red flag laws, disarmed domestic abusers, cracked down on gun trafficking, funded community violence intervention, invested in mental health services, and provided school safety funding.

Mass Shootings Continue Across The Nation

Despite Biden’s efforts to strengthen gun control laws, mass shootings continued in cities across the United States. 2021 saw a record 690 mass shootings in the country, and 2022 saw a slight dip down to 646 mass shootings – which was still 646 too many.

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Unfortunately, those numbers started to rise again in 2023 with 655 mass shootings between January and December. While the Biden Administration made progress with the BSCA, it was clear that more action was needed.

March 2023: Biden Signs Executive Order 

More action came on March 14, 2023, when President Joe Biden announced an executive order ‘with the goal of increasing the number of background checks conducted before firearm sales.’

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

“The Executive Order will also keep more guns out of dangerous hands by increasing the effective use of “red flag” laws, strengthen efforts to hold the gun industry accountable, and accelerate law enforcement efforts to identify and apprehend the shooters menacing our communities,” the White House wrote at the time.

August 2023: Biden Proposes New Gun Control Rule

Biden continued his efforts on August 31, 2023, when he proposed a rule aimed at bringing the ‘gun show loophole’ to an end – as discussed at the top of this article. It would target gun sales made by individuals who don’t register as federal firearms licensees.

Source: Greg Nash

Vice President Kamala Harris applauded the proposed rule, but urged Congress to step up their efforts – including passing legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require safe gun storage, support universal background checks, and more.

April 2024: Justice Department Submits Final Rule

That brings us to earlier this week, when the Justice Department submitted the final rule to the federal register. That rule will go into effect within 30 days of it being published in the federal register, which usually takes about three days after it’s submitted.

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Once it goes into effect, individuals who don’t operate brick-and-mortar gun shops will be required to obtain a federal license and perform background checks when selling firearms – and that includes selling guns online and in gun shows.

Merrick Garland Applauds New Rule

Attorney General Merrick Garland described the new rule as a ‘historic step in the Justice Department’s fight against gun violence’ and touted it as a motion that will ‘save lives.’ 

Source: Wikimedia/Tom Williams

“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 of the rule.

President Joe Biden Releases Statement 

On April 11, President Joe Biden released a statement announcing the new rule – echoing Garland’s claim that it will save lives. Biden touted his administration’s efforts and spoke about the many families he has talked to over the past few years.

Source: Brendan Smialowski

“I’ve spent hours with families who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence. They all have the same message: ‘Do something,’” he wrote. “And my Administration is going to continue to do everything we possibly can to save lives. Congress needs to finish the job and pass universal background checks legislation now.”

Certain Firearms Won’t Need Background Checks

While the new rule will require background checks online and at gun shows, certain firearms will be exempt from this. For example, gun sales that fall in the ‘personal firearms collection’ category won’t need a background check.

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According to NPR, the exemption would ‘allow firearms collectors to add or liquidate their collections without breaking the law. It also ‘provides clarity on what those licensed to sell guns should do with their supply if they go out of business.’

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Ryan Handson

Written by Ryan Handson

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