March 2, 2024

Despite GOA Warnings, Republicans Helped the Biden Administration Implement Backdoor UBCs

President Biden just announced that he would be mandating backdoor UBCs or “as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation.”[i] His claimed “authority” comes from Section 12002 of the Cornyn-Murphy Compromise.[ii] According to the White House:

Specifically, the President is directing the Attorney General to move the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation by clarifying, as appropriate, the statutory definition of who is “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms, as updated by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.[iii]

Unfortunately, Gun Owners of America has been expecting this since the passage of the unconstitutional compromise on gun rights known as Cornyn-Murphy, or the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. GOA warned:

Expanding the definition of FFLs (Federal Firearms Licenses) could require anyone who sells more than one gun to do so through an FFL, resulting in a backdoor mechanism for universal background registration checks—just as the Obama Administration attempted.[iv]

Nevertheless, Congress, including 15 Senate GOP, rushed to “compromise” our gun rights away with hastily-written, secretly-negotiated legislation.[v]

Senator Cornyn’s Definition of “Engaged in the Business” Led Directly to Backdoor Universal Background Checks

Prior to Senate Republicans’ compromise, the legal definition of a Federal Firearms License (FFL) Gun Dealer read as follows:[vi]

The term “dealer” means (A) any person engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail, (B) any person engaged in the business[vii] of repairing firearms or of making or fitting special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms, or (C) any person who is a pawnbroker.

Anyone “engaged in the business” must have a license to deal in firearms, but law-abiding citizen’s private transfers were not included in this 53-year-old definition. The definition of a Federal Firearms License (FFL) was a critical boundary between the mandatory background checks performed during commercial gun sales and law-abiding private transfers and sales that take place daily in more than half of the United States. But Cornyn-Murphy added this foolish clarification, which the Biden Administration now proposes to weaponize:

The term `to predominantly earn a profit’ means that the intent underlying the sale or disposition of firearms is predominantly one of obtaining pecuniary gain, as opposed to other intents, such as improving or liquidating a personal firearms collection

Not only that, but this asinine definition even “Provided, That proof of profit shall not be required” for a violation—making President Biden’s backdoor Universal Background Check scheme even easier! Expanding the statutory definition of FFLs (Federal Firearms Licenses) allowed the Biden Administration a strong excuse to vastly expand federal regulations and require anyone who sells more than one gun to do so through an FFL, resulting in a backdoor mechanism for universal background registration checks—just as the Obama Administration attempted.[viii]

Cornyn-Murphy Mimicked Obama’s Backdoor Universal Background Check Attempt, Which Had a Chilling Effect on Lawful Transfers

The gun control compromise language Senator Cornyn negotiated never truly mattered. It was obvious that ANY change to the definition was enough to give Biden the legal impetus to defend backdoor UBCs via an agency rule change in federal court, since prior administrations had already weaponized the preexisting definition. In the last days of his Presidency, President Obama issued an executive action[ix] to expand the gun “dealer”[x] definition to:

  • Restrict private transfers of firearms under the guise of the so-called loopholes “online and at gun shows;”[xi]
  • Prosecute those who sell even as many as one firearm unless they obtained a Federal Firearms License;[xii]
  • Punish this otherwise lawful behavior with “up to five years in prison and fine[s] up to $250,000.”[xiii]

Obama wanted to prosecute gun owners who engaged in otherwise law-abiding firearm transfers and punish them with up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.[xiv] If you did not get a license and conduct a background check before selling even one firearm, you could be prosecuted by the Obama Administration. This threat resulted in a chilling effect on private firearm transfers during the final days of the Obama Administration. This is exactly why GOA warned against expanding the scope of the definition of a gun “dealer” and empowering President Biden to enact backdoor UBCs.

Backdoor Universal Background Checks Expands ATF’s Illegal Gun Registry

The goal of President Biden’s new backdoor UBC scheme is to turn as many private citizens who sell their guns into FFLs, restricting their ability to conduct private gun transfers without a background check and a Firearm Transaction Record (Form 4473) recording the firearm in ATF’s illegal national federal registry. Remember, the ATF already has a database of nearly one billion gun and gun owner records in a database in West Virginia.[xv]

It is unconscionable that Congress helped President Biden universalize or expand the background check system when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has exploited and abused it for the creation of a near-billion record gun registry in violation of one federal statute and two appropriations act restrictions.[xvi]


[i]FACT SHEET: President Biden Announces New Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer”. White House. March 14th, 2023.

[ii]  Public Law 117-159. 136 Stat. 1324.

[iii]FACT SHEET: President Biden Announces New Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer”. White House. March 14th, 2023.

[iv] Johnston. “The Odessa, TX Shooting ISN’T a Reason to Expand “Gun Dealer” Definition”. Gun Owners of America. June 15th, 2022. See also Johnston. “Sen. Cornyn’s Expanded Gun “Dealer” Definition Mimics Failed Obama Backdoor Universal Background Checks ”. Gun Owners of America. June 15th, 2022.

[v] Pratt. “Anti-gun Republicans MUST be Held Accountable”. Gun Owners of America. June 27th, 2022.

[vi] 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(11).

[vii] Note: Further definition of “engaged in the business” can be found at 18 U.S.C 921(a)(21).

[viii] Office of the Press Secretary. FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer. 2016.

[ix] Office of the Press Secretary. FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer. 2016.

[x] 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(11).

[xi] Office of the Press Secretary. FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer. 2016.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Johnston. ATF’s Illegal Gun Owner Registry. 2022.

[xvi] Ibid.

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