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Biden administration finalizes rule to close ‘gun show loophole’ in effort to combat gun violence

People browse guns for sale, during the Novi Gun and Knife Show at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan, on February 24, 2018.
Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press/USA Today Network via CNN Newsource
People browse guns for sale, during the Novi Gun and Knife Show at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan, on February 24, 2018.

By Devan Cole and Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN

(CNN) — The Biden administration on Thursday moved one step closer to enacting a rule requiring people who sell firearms online and at gun shows to conduct background checks on their potential customers.

The finalized rule aims to close what gun control advocates call the “gun show loophole” by increasing the requirements to obtain a federal firearms license, or FFL, by more specifically defining what it means to be “engaged in the business” of selling firearms. By making the term more definitive, the Justice Department has said it aims to better regulate the market and encourage higher compliance with the federal background check requirement.

“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,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Vice President Kamala Harris noted to reporters that the new rule was being finalized days before the 25-year anniversary of the deadly Columbine High School shooting, which she described as “a horrific act of violence that was carried out in part with guns purchased through the gun show loophole.”

“Since then, from New Paris, Ohio, to Chicago, Illinois, to Midland-Odessa, Texas, so many communities have been torn apart to violence committed with weapons bought without background checks,” Harris said. “I do believe countless families and communities will be spared the horror and the heartbreak of gun violence by this new rule.”

The finalized rule, which will appear in the Federal Registry, will go into effect in 30 days. The administration first proposed the rule last August.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed in 2022, expanded the definition of engaging in the business of firearms dealing to include all individuals who “devote time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business to predominately earn a profit through the repetitive purchase and sale of firearms.” President Joe Biden later issued an executive order directing DOJ to adopt a new rule to address who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms.

In finalizing the new rule, DOJ amended the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulations to the new expanded definition of engaging in the business of firearms dealing and further clarifies the conduct that presumptively requires a license under that revised definition, the department said.

The rule clarifies what it means to have a “personal firearms collection” to ensure that “genuine hobbyists and collectors” may add to or get rid of guns in their collection without breaking the law, and provides clarity as to what FFL’s who are going out of business should do with their inventory.

The new rule is estimated to impact a little over 20,000 people engaged in unlicensed firearms sales, according to a senior White House official.

Already, the rule is facing criticism from conservative lawmakers and gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association.

“This latest Biden Administration attack on law-abiding gun owners is a blatant attempt to coerce Americans to forego legal activity with firearms under threat of potential confiscation of their lawfully acquired and constitutionally protected property,” said Randy Kozuch, the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, in a statement. “NRA is already working to use all means available to stop this unlawful rule.”

This story has been updated with additional details Thursday.

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