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ATF Changes More Definitions

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On August 31, the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to change more definitions, this time related to who or what is a gun dealer.

Under the leverage of the so-called “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act”, passed in 2022, the proposed notice of rulemaking attempts to broaden the definition of a firearms dealer to include private party sales. (The goal of the Biden administration is to ultimately move towards “universal background checks”, a sticking point that Second Amendment supporters thoroughly reject for the de facto gun registration database that would inevitably result.)

Today, individuals who may wish to liquidate some of their private collection at a gun show, or online through popular, legal firearms brokers, may now be hamstrung by a rule that requires them to register as firearms dealers. And here’s the kicker. The rule doesn’t say how many firearms sold might qualify one as a “dealer”.

According to the rule, “There is no minimum threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensing requirement.”

Putting aside the fact that the ATF doesn’t have the regulatory authority to make law, the rule is intended to have a chilling effect on the already-lawful transfer of firearms between individuals. It is specifically aimed at closing the so-called “gun show loophole”.

Today, Federal law regulates persons in the business of firearms sales, and they must obtain a license from the government to operate as such. They must also conduct background checks when selling a firearm, including all sales by licensed firearms dealers at gun shows.

However, there is no federal law governing the sales of a firearm by a private citizen who is not in the business of selling firearms for profit (also known as the “private sale exception”). Selling a couple of firearms one no longer wants, for example, is not regulated by federal law. That also means it’s legal, although certain states may have stricter standards for firearms transfers between individuals. Under the new ATF definitions, that will change.

(According to the Gun Control Act in 1968, guns still cannot be sold to prohibited persons, even in private transactions.)

The new ATF proposed rule (108 pages) attempts to redefine a wide collection of terms, including, but not limited to:

  • engaged in the business
  • predominantly earn a profit
  • terrorism
  • principal objective of livelihood and profit
  • engaged in the business
  • dealer
  • responsible person

As is often the case with such rules, it’s the unintended consequences, or rather the known pitfalls that can ensnare the well-intentioned, that are cause for concern. The ATF has already demonstrated its willingness to ensnare and infringe upon the law-abiding as we reported earlier this year with its pistol brace rule. The new, unconstitutional rule is yet one more example of this infringement by the Biden administration.

Gun Owners of America has already announced that it will sue the Biden Administration over this rule.

To submit your comments on the proposed rule, click here to visit the Federal Registrar.

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