Joe Biden is set to sign new executive actions targeting guns.
The White House announced a new executive order aimed primarily at increasing the use of background checks in private gun sales on Tuesday. It would also encourage using so-called red flag laws and push the ATF to release records of violations by licensed dealers.
“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,” the White House said in a fact sheet announcing the order.
The order marks a return to form for the President in his quest to enact new gun restrictions via executive order. He has already signed two sweeping executive orders aimed at outlawing so-called ghost guns and stabilizing pistol braces. Both orders now find themselves embattled in the courts, and the ‘ghost gun’ rule has already been subject to a preliminary injunction by at least one federal judge. Tuesday’s order is more modest in scope, suggesting the President could be running out of levers to pull without Congressional action.
Biden’s return to issuing executive orders also signals a reversion to stalemate over new gun laws in Congress. The President has not stopped calling for sweeping new gun-control legislation since last summer’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed into law. But Republican control of the House all but guarantees that won’t happen.
The push to expand the use of background checks by focusing on who is “engaged in the business” is a callback to an Obama-era executive order that sought to do the same. In 2016, then-President Obama issued an order to require more Americans who sell used guns to obtain Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs). The hope was that because FFLs are required to conduct background checks on all gun sales they perform, forcing more people to obtain FFLs would lead to more sales that were subject to background checks. However, the order did not establish a specific threshold for how many guns a person could sell before being considered “engaged in the business.”
The White House’s fact sheet did not explain how Biden’s guidance would differ from that order.
Under the new order, President Biden will direct Attorney General Merrick Garland to “develop and implement a plan” that ensures federally licensed firearms dealers whose licenses have been revoked can’t continue to sell guns.
He is also “encouraging” the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue a public report analyzing how gun manufacturers market firearms, with a specific focus on marketing to minors as well as marketing to the general public through the use of “military imagery.” Firearms marketing has become a major flashpoint for gun-control advocates in recent years, and many have attempted to target gun marketing as a way to circumvent the federal liability protections enjoyed by the industry.
Gun-control groups responded positively to the President’s announcement. Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun-control organization, called the order “a home run for public safety.”
“This is the latest example of President Biden’s leadership on gun safety and we’re proud to stand with him as he takes robust action to help close the gun seller loophole — which will significantly expand background checks on gun sales, keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people, and save lives,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, said.
Biden is expected to formally announce the new executive order in a speech from Monterey Park, California, where a gunman shot and killed 11 people at a local dance hall in January.