Biden targets 'gun show loophole' by expanding background checks, dealer registration requirements

The rule is likely to be challenged in court.
Joe Biden, gun, April 11, 2022, Washington, D.C.

The Biden administration Thursday announced a new rule that requires thousands of gun vendors to register as federally licensed firearms dealers and then run background checks on customers in an attempt to close the so-called "gun show loophole," and the related "online sale loophole."

The White House said the rule is an implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Congress passed in 2022, although it is likely to be challenged in court. 

The Biden administration acknowledged that over the past two decades "there have been numerous failed efforts to close these loopholes and expand background checks," but through the Bipartisan Safer Communities act, "President Biden accomplished what many had tried for the past 20 years."

The Justice Department estimates that more than 20,000 unlicensed vendors sell firearms online, at gun shows and through other various means. The White House said that data suggests that the new rule may impact firearms sales made by more than 80,000 people.

While the Biden administration says the rule will fight gun crime, just 0.8% of prisoners who possessed a firearm during their crime bought it at a gun show and less than 1% of them obtained it online, according to the most recent available Justice Department survey, which was published in 2019. About half of all prisoners surveyed obtained the gun off the street or by stealing it.

The National Rifle Association has said, "There is no 'gun show loophole,'" and "There is no 'online sales' loophole," because federal law already requires dealers to conduct background checks before selling or transferring any firearm. 

Vice President Kamala Harris said that she is "in favor of the Second Amendment," but she wants "reasonable gun safety laws."

She also said that annually, tens of thousands of guns are sold "without a single background check, including to buyers who, if they had been required to pass a background check, would have failed — for example, domestic abusers, violent felons, and even children."

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.