26 States challenge ATF's new 'firearm dealer' definition in court

 May 4, 2024

A wave of lawsuits from 25 states is targeting a controversial federal rule that could change the landscape of gun sales across the United States.

On May 1, a coalition of attorneys general filed federal lawsuits challenging a rule mandating criminal background checks for all gun transactions, a significant redefinition by the Biden administration set to begin on May 10, The Epoch Times reported

The Biden administration, through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), introduced a new rule aimed at redefining what it means to be “engaged in the business” of selling firearms. This rule, signed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on April 10, extends the requirement for criminal background checks to include almost all types of gun sales, including private transactions.

Historically, the definition focused on those who sell firearms as a means of livelihood. However, the new regulation interprets this as anyone predominantly trading guns for profit, stemming from changes initiated by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) signed last year.

Revised Firearm Selling Rules Prompt Legal Challenges

The lawsuits argue that this expansion oversteps the intended scope of the BSCA and infringes on Second Amendment rights. They contend that it effectively implements universal background checks via executive action, bypassing congressional approval.

These legal challenges were filed in various federal courts including those in Florida, Texas, and Arkansas. The largest of these lawsuits includes 21 states and was filed in Arkansas, highlighting the widespread opposition to the rule among state governments.

Florida's Attorney General Ashley Moody took the lead in one of these suits, claiming that the administration is stretching the BSCA's language to enforce its political objectives.

Public Figures and Legal Authorities React

Ashley Moody stated, “Sensing an opportunity, the Biden Administration now seeks to exploit the minor changes to federal law enacted in the BSCA to implement President Biden’s preferred policies by executive fiat.” This sentiment is echoed by other state attorneys general who joined the legal battle.

Arkansas's Attorney General Tim Griffin added, “This lawsuit is just the latest instance of me and my colleagues in other states having to remind the President that he must follow the law.” The coalition of plaintiffs also includes private citizens and Second Amendment advocacy groups.

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach criticized the rule’s constitutionality, saying, “Defendants’ claim of authority to implement this scheme dramatically upends both our constitutional traditions and the federal firearms licensing regime Congress designed.”

Implications for Second Amendment Rights

According to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, “Joe Biden is weaponizing the federal bureaucracy to rip up the Constitution and destroy our citizens’ Second Amendment rights.” His fierce criticism reflects the concerns of many opponents who view the rule as an overreach of executive power.

Gun rights advocate Erich Pratt expressed concern that this rule would “further encourage this tyrannical administration to continue weaponizing vague statutes into policies that are meant to further harass and intimidate gun owners and dealers at every turn.”

The defendants named in the lawsuits include Attorney General Merrick Garland, ATF Director Steven Dettelbach, the Department of Justice, and the ATF itself. However, as of now, the White House and the ATF have not issued comments regarding the ongoing legal proceedings.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Gun Legislation and Rights

As these lawsuits proceed, they promise to spark a significant legal debate over the scope of executive power in regulating gun sales and the protection of constitutional rights. The outcome could set a precedent for how firearm regulations are implemented in the future, potentially influencing gun policy nationwide.

The rule, set to be enforced starting May 10, places all parties involved under a tight timeline as courts deliberate the implications and legality of this expansive definition of gun dealing.

In conclusion, the pushback against the ATF's new rule by 25 states through federal lawsuits underscores a major contention point in American politics and law: the balance between regulating gun safety and preserving gun rights. This legal challenge is a pivotal moment that could reshape how guns are sold and regulated in the United States.

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