The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is working on a rule that could effectively ban the sale of firearms between private individuals, agency whistleblowers told a watchdog group.
Empower Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog representing one of the Hunter Biden Internal Revenue Service whistleblowers, says that ATF whistleblowers informed it of a 1,300-page document being drafted by the agency that would require background checks for all firearm sales, including those between two private individuals. The new rule would “effectively ban private sales of firearms from one citizen to another,” according to a press release from Empower Oversight.
Empower Oversight submitted a records request to the Department of Justice seeking more information about the rule.
The rule would “violate the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution,” according to Empower Oversight President Tristan Leavitt. Leavitt also said the rule would “circumvent the separation of powers in the Constitution.”
Empower Oversight points out that the ATF’s rule could redefine individuals who occasionally sell guns as being “engaged in the business of dealing in firearms,” thus requiring them to acquire a Federal Firearms Licensee and run background checks on whoever they’re selling to.
In the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986, Congress established that the term “engaged in the business” of selling guns “shall not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby.”
Leavitt pointed out that the courts would likely strike down the rule and argued that it is likely a ploy to fire up the Democratic base during an election year.
Private background checks are popular with voters, according to polling data.
A poll conducted by Morning Consult and Politico in 2022 found that 81% of registered voters supported background checks at gun shows and for private transfers.
Support for background checks is lower among Republicans than among Democrats. A 2021 Morning Consult and Politico poll found that 77% of Democrats supported background checks for all gun purchases, compared to just 53% of Republicans.
While Americans are open to background checks, banning certain kinds of firearms is unpopular among Americans.
Only 27% of Americans supported banning handgun ownership as of October 2023, according to Gallup. An April 2023 poll conducted by Monmouth University found that more Americans opposed an “assault weapons” ban than supported it.
The Biden administration has consistently pushed for stricter gun laws.
President Joe Biden pushed a rule that forced people who owned pistols with arm braces to register them as short-barreled rifles, Politico reported. Pistol braces remain legal as states and gun rights groups sue the ATF over the rule.
Short-barreled rifles are illegal in some states.
Biden also banned the sale of firearm parts lacking serial numbers, which can be used to construct “ghost guns,” and has continuously pushed for a so-called assault weapons ban, according to Fox News Digital.
Some gun rights groups are ready to fight the ATF’s rule should it come to fruition.
“The records of these sales will eventually end up in the ATF’s firearm registry database,” director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America (GOA) Aidan Johnston told the Daily Caller News Foundation. The ATF maintains a registry of firearms sales, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Johnston said GOA is “actively preparing to take legal action if and when Joe Biden’s administration releases their rule change.”
Empower Oversight and the ATF did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
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