President Barack Obama’s advisers are finalizing a proposal that would expand background checks on gun sales without congressional approval. Many advocates for stricter gun laws believe Obama is again poised to use executive power to address gun violence. The step he’s likely to take, they say, is to broaden the definition of what it means to be in the business of selling firearms—a move that would mean more oversight for gun dealers, and would end up requiring more buyers to be subject to background checks.
The law that President Obama will likely start with is closing the so-called “gun show loophole” that allows people to buy weapons at gun shows and online without a background check. It is a way that people who have been convicted of domestic violence, the mentally ill and repeat criminals often buy weapons. With the help of this loophole they can avoid background checks.
This is an area that he has the full support of over 90 percent of all local, regional, state and national law enforcement officials. Many major city police chiefs from New York to Miami have asked the president to close this loophole along with the one where people who are on the terrorist watch list, who can now buy guns should be prevented to do so.
Remember that the president can close these loopholes without Congressional help – because the laws are already on the books and he would simply – use the letter of the law and tighten the loopholes, which he is actually constitutionally mandated to do.
In a statement from Senior Advisory to the President Valerie Jarrett: “The president has asked his team to complete a proposal and submit it for his review in short order so he can act on the matter quickly.”
She says the recommendations will include measures to expand the background checks.
Federal regulations already require professional gun dealers to be licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. But the law doesn’t clearly define what it means to be in the business of selling guns. Some sellers use the ambiguity of the current law to advertise the fact that they don’t require background checks, which makes it easy for people to purchase weapons without any scrutiny.
Officials have identified, and in some cases convicted, individuals selling tens of thousands of dollars worth of guns per year without a license because they don’t consider themselves to be in the gun-selling business.
Obama could use executive power to clarify the existing law—perhaps by adding a set number of guns sold, or the amount of money that a person can pull in from gun sales—and determine what constitutes being in the firearms business. Doing so would require more sellers to be licensed.