WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is proposing a rule that would require thousands more firearms dealers to run background checks, in an effort to combat rising gun violence nationwide.
The proposal comes after a mandate from President Joe Biden to find ways to strengthen background checks following the passage of bipartisan legislation on guns last year.
People who sell firearms online or at gun shows would be required to be licensed and run background checks on the buyers before the sales under the rule proposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The bureau estimates that the rule would affect anywhere from 24,500 to 328,000 sellers. It is aimed at those who are in the business of gun sales, rather than those with personal collections.
Background checks help prevent guns from being sold to people convicted of crimes, teenagers and others who are legally blocked from owning them, said the agency’s director, Steve Dettelbach. Federally licensed firearm dealers are also required to keep records and sell guns with serial numbers, both of which help law enforcement trace weapons used in crimes.
“Unlicensed dealers sell guns without running background checks, without keeping records, without observing the other crucial public safety requirements by which the (federally licensed firearm dealer) community abides,” he said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Congress passed the gun legislation to reduce gun violence, including by expanding background checks, and said the new rule implements that mandate.
The nation is grappling with a rise in gun violence and a record pace of mass shootings for the year. Over the weekend, three Black people were shot to death by a white man wearing a mask and firing a weapon emblazoned with a swastika in Jacksonville, Florida. The shooter, who had purchased the weapons legally despite previously being involuntarily committed for a mental health exam, killed himself.
The Giffords Center to Prevent Gun Violence applauded the proposed rule change, saying it closes a “gaping loophole.” Executive Director Peter Ambler said the Biden administration had taken a “giant step forward towards our goal of universal background checks.”
Kris Brown, president of the gun control group Brady, said more than 1 in 5 gun sales in the U.S. are conducted without a background check.
Gun rights groups, on the other hand, have argued it would do little to stop the gun violence problem. Those advocates have previously quickly sued over other ATF rule changes that they argue infringe on gun rights.
The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 90 days. It was not immediately clear when it might become final.