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ATF Receives Over 274,000 Public Comments in Support of Proposed Rule to Expand Background Checks on Gun Sales

December 8, 2023

WASHINGTON — In August, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) issued a life-saving new proposed rule that will require more unlicensed gun sellers to become licensed firearms dealers, expanding background checks on more gun sales. In the 90-day public comment period that ended late yesterday, over 274,000 comments were submitted urging ATF to finalize the proposed rule as written, with over 238,000 comments coming from Everytown supporters.

For years, unlicensed gun sellers have sold guns online and at gun shows without conducting background checks. That’s because only licensed firearms dealers are required to run them. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, however, gave the Biden-Harris Administration tools to close these dangerous and deadly loopholes in our background check system, and that’s what ATF’s proposed rule would help do. ATF has been delegated the clear authority to administer and enforce the federal gun laws on the books, including the statute that bars unlicensed sales by those “engaged in the business” of firearms dealing.

“Whether you’re looking at opinion polls or the hundreds of thousands of comments supporting ATF’s proposed rule, one thing is crystal clear: The American people want to close the loopholes in our background check system that make it easy for people with dangerous histories to buy guns,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Everytown and our army of grassroots volunteers have been pushing for this common-sense step for years, and now we urge ATF to listen to the people and finalize the rule as written.”

“The overwhelming amount of public support to expand background checks on gun sales is a reflection of how fed up our communities are with this crisis,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action. “ATF owes it to the American people to finalize their lifesaving proposed rule exactly as written, and help prevent the tragedy that can occur when the wrong person has easy access to deadly weapons.”

The proposed rule was announced on the four year mark of the 2019 Midland-Odessa mass shooting, in which a gunman went on a rampage in West Texas, killing seven people and wounding 25 others.  The gunman purchased his weapon from a person who posted guns for sale online after failing a background check at a gun store. The person selling the gun was not a licensed dealer, so he did not conduct a background check. Had this type of rule been in place at the time, the shooter could have been prevented from acquiring his firearm.  Last year, Everytown For Gun Safety called on the Biden-Harris Administration to fully implement the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act with regulatory action that cracks down on no-background-check sales by clarifying the definition of a gun seller who is “engaged in the business.”

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