ATF Goes Around Congress: Publishes Universal Background Check Rule

gun sales
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President Joe Biden’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) announced a proposed rule Thursday requiring universal background checks, which Congress has rejected for more than 20 years.

On August 2, 2023, Breitbart News reported Gun Owners of America’s (GOA) warning that Biden was working behind the scenes to use executive action to secure universal background checks.

GOA’s warning came the same day Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) urged the Biden Administration to act under the auspices of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to “issue and [make] effective” more regulations on gun sales.

On August 5, 2023, Breitbart News noted that Gabby Giffords’ gun control group, Giffords, was cheering the anticipated executive action for universal background checks.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice/ATF announced the rule is being published for public comment.

In a press release that accompanied the announcement of the proposed rule, Attorney General Merrick Garland said:

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was passed by Congress to reduce gun violence, including by expanding the background checks that keep guns out of the hands of criminals. This proposed rule implements Congress’s mandate to expand the definition of who must obtain a license and conduct a background check before selling firearms.

ATF director Steve Dettelbach said, “This new proposed rule would clarify the circumstances in which a person is ‘engaged in the business’ of dealing in firearms, and thus required to obtain a license and follow the laws Congress has established for firearms dealers.”

The ATF’s rule will redefine language so that there is not simply a category of Americans buying and selling guns from and to one another — as they have done since 1791 — and a category of Federal Firearms Licensed holders (FFLs) selling guns at retail. Rather, every seller will have to prove he is not trying to make a profit, or he will be required to ensure the purchaser undergoes a background check before taking possession of the firearm.

For example, the proposed rule states:

Consistent with the Gun Control Act (“GCA”) and existing regulations, the proposed rule also defines the term “personal collection” to clarify when persons are not “engaged in the business” because they make only occasional sales to enhance a personal collection, or for a hobby, or if the firearms they sell are all or part of a personal collection. This proposed rule further addresses the lawful ways in which former licensees, and responsible persons acting on behalf of such licensees, may liquidate business inventory upon revocation or other termination of their license.

Within minutes of the announcement of the proposed rule, GOA noted in an X post, “There are carve outs for any firearms the ATF deems cool enough to be ‘collectible.’ UNLESS your intent all along was profit or ATF doesn’t think it’s collectible. Then, that’s not allowed.”

The bottom line: The rule creates a paradigm in which gun owners will have to prove they are not gun dealers before selling a gun without a background check.

WATCH — AWR Hawkins: Universal Background Checks = Gun Registry


AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio and a Turning Point USA Ambassador. He was a Visiting Fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in 2010, a speaker at the 2023 Western Conservative Summit, and he holds a Ph.D. in Military History, with a focus on the Vietnam War (brown water navy), U.S. Navy since Inception, the Civil War, and Early Modern Europe. Follow him on Instagram: @awr_hawkins. You can sign up to get Down Range at Reach him directly at


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