July 20, 2024

Busting Gun Control Lobby Myths About ATF’s New Rule

There is a lot of misinformation about the ATF’s newest “Engaged in the Business” rule circulating on Capitol Hill. Supporters of the rule falsely claim that the rule simply implements Section 12002 of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) which was passed with the support of both Republicans and Democrats in 2022.

MYTH 1: Among others,[i] Attorney General Merrick Garland, speaking about ATF’s new rule, stated:

“It will also close the gun show loophole.”[ii]

As ATF Director Dettelbach stated clearly before the House Judiciary Committee, there is no so-called “gun show loophole” and “there never was.”[iii] This rule cannot close a loophole that never existed!

MYTH 2: Moms Demand Action executive director Angela Ferrell-Zabala described the rule as:

“Expanding background checks and closing the gun seller loophole…”[iv]

But private firearm sales (without background checks) are legal for long guns in 42 states and for handguns in 32 states—even using data from the Giffords law center.[v] There is no “gun seller” loophole to be closed, only lawful private firearm sales to be suppressed.

MYTHS 3 & 4: A form letter from Everytown for Gun Safety claims that:

“ATF’s rule provides clear guidance that people who seek to sell guns for profit—whether that’s a brick-and-mortar store, a gun show, or online—must become licensed dealers and run background checks.”[vi]

First, ATF’s rule is anything but clear. ATF Director Dettelbach was unable to tell Rep. Chip Roy whether he needed a license to sell even one gun to his friend in Texas—where private firearm sales are lawful.

Additionally, the rule does far more than the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. BSCA merely struck 8 words and inserted 5 words to cover a handful of situations in which an individual might have been trying to sell firearms “predominantly to earn a profit” but not for his or her “livelihood.”

ATF’s Engaged In The Business Rule Goes Far Beyond Statute

While the rule in part implements the BSCA, it also greatly expands the ATF’s authority well beyond the statute as authorized by Congress:

  • President Biden himself said the goal was to “move the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation.”[vii]
  • A judge found 4 ways that the ATF’s rule violates statute and exceeds the agency’s statutory authority.[viii]
  • There are dozens of ways a lawful firearm transaction will be presumed unlawful under the rule.[ix]
  • Many elected officials who voted for the BSCA in 2022 are opposed to the ATF’s current rule.[x]

Even proponents of gun control like expanded and universal background checks should be opposed to this massive, illegal power grab by ATF which circumvents the legislative authority of Congress.

[i] Brady. Brady Applauds Biggest Expansion of Background Checks on Gun Sales Since the Brady Bill. Brady United. April 11, 2024.

[ii] United States Department of Justice. DOJ Publishes New Rule to Update Definition of “Engaged in the Business” as a Firearms Dealer. April 11, 2024.

[iii] Gun Owners of America. Breaking! @ATFHQ Director Dettelbach ADMITS that there is not, and never was, a gun show loophole! Maybe one day they will admit there’s no such thing as an “assault” weapon either… X. May 23, 2024.

[iv] Everytown. Everytown, Moms Demand Action Applaud ATF for Finalizing Rule Cracking Down on Unlicensed Gun Dealers. Everytown. April 11, 2024.

[v] Giffords Law Center. Universal Background Checks. Giffords Law Center.

[vi] Everytown. Tell Congress: Protect The Engaged In The Business Rule. Everytown For Gun Safety.

[vii] White House. Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Action to Implement Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, Expanding Firearm Background Checks to Fight Gun Crime. April 11, 2024.

[viii] Gun Owners of America. 4 Ways A Federal Judge Says The Rule Is Illegal. 2024.

[ix] Aidan Johnston. 19 Lawful But Presumptively Illegal Situations Under New ATF Rule. Gun Owners of America. July 1, 2024.

[x] Senator John Corny. Cornyn, Tillis, Colleagues Introduce Resolution to Block Unconstitutional Biden ATF Rule. United States Senate. May 15, 2024.

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