Psst. Biden Didn’t Really Close the Gun-Show Loophole

Psst. Biden Didn’t Really Close the Gun-Show Loophole


The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, issued the loophole-closing rule claiming authorization under the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. It’s a matter of opinion whether this law directed the ATF to close the gun-show loophole. Although the bill does clarify, helpfully, who is and who isn’t a federally licensed firearms dealer and therefore required to perform background checks, the phrase “gun show” appears nowhere in the text. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said through a spokesperson Thursday that he and Senator Thom Tillis will introduce a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act to revoke the regulation as “lawless and unconstitutional.” He doesn’t have the votes, of course. When the rule was in proposed form Cornyn protested: “Our goal [in passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act] was to provide the American people with predictability and clarity in the law, not to give the ATF an opportunity to impose a gun control regime on law-abiding Americans.” 

Cornyn may be right. Before you despair, however, please know that the new regulation doesn’t actually closes the gun-show loophole. What it does is increase the proportion of firearms sellers who must be classified as professionals and therefore must perform background checks. That matter is addressed in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, rendering Cornyn’s objection beside the point. Indeed, the text of the regulation explicitly “recognizes that individuals who purchase firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or a legitimate hobby are permitted … to buy and sell firearms for those purposes, or occasionally resell to a licensee or to a family member for lawful purposes, without the need to obtain a license.”

What’s “a personal collection”? What’s “a legitimate hobby”? What does “occasional” mean? Who’s a “family member”? Gun-sellers will now argue about these definitions in order to dodge making background checks. I don’t know how big a problem that is, but it’s a problem.


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