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Congressman Mike Thompson

Representing the 5th District of CALIFORNIA

CHAIRMAN THOMPSON: SINCE REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS REFUSE TO ACT ON GUN VIOLENCE, THE PRESIDENT SHOULD

Nov 23, 2015
Press Release
Thompson, 114 members of Congress Urge White House to take Executive Action to Close Loopholes in Background Check System

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, today sent a letter signed by 114 of his colleagues calling on the White House to take action to reduce gun violence. The letter urges the president to close the background check loophole through executive action. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) lead a letter signed by 24 senators also asking the President to take executive action to close the background check loophole.

“The Republican leadership in Congress continues to sit on their hands as gun violence becomes America’s new normal. Thirty-plus people a day are being killed by someone using a gun, yet the majority refuses to take the simple and commonsense step of passing legislation that would help keep guns out of dangerous hands. Since Congress won’t step up, the President should. Through executive action he can help keep guns from criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill. Something needs to be done and since Republicans in Congress can’t even bring themselves to hold a vote, this is the best option to make our country safer and save lives.”

Specifically, the Members of Congress are asking the president to eliminate the ambiguity surrounding the term: “engaged in the business” as it pertains to federally licensed firearms dealers. Under current law, only licensed gun dealers are required to perform background checks for all gun sales, and only those individuals deemed to be "engaged in the business" of dealing in guns are required to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). 

Clarifying the term to state that anyone selling guns in a high-volume, even if it be at a gun show or over the internet, is “engaged in the business” would require these sellers to obtain a license and conduct criminal background checks. Currently, background checks are not required by federal law for sales made at gun shows, over the internet or through classified ads.

The full text of the letter is below .

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500-0004

 

Mr. President:

Gun violence continues to go unchecked in our country. Communities are ravaged and lives are senselessly cut short. Every day, close to 30 Americans are killed by someone using a gun. Following yet another horrific mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, it is unthinkable that our country can continue to turn a blind eye to these tragedies.

However, despite tragedy after tragedy, the Republican Congress has not been willing to pass any meaningful legislation to strengthen laws to help keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose an increased risk to public safety. 

In the face of Congressional inaction, your administration could take an immediate step that would have an important impact on limiting gun violence. Specifically, we urge that you address an aspect of the private sale loophole that allows guns to be sold without a background check, by eliminating the ambiguity surrounding the term: “engaged in the business” as it pertains to federally licensed firearms dealers.  

Under current law, only licensed gun dealers are required to perform background checks for all gun sales, and only those individuals deemed to be "engaged in the business" of dealing in guns are required to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  However, the regulatory definition of "engaged in the business," is exceptionally vague. As a result, individuals are able to sell guns at a high volume at gun shows, over the internet, or elsewhere without ever having becoming licensed and, in turn, without being compelled to conduct a simple background check before completing a sale.

Updating the definition of “engaged in the business” to provide more explicit guidance as to which gun sellers are required to obtain a federal firearms license will help ensure that individuals are not able to continue to exploit this ambiguity in the current regulation and sell guns at a high volume without any oversight by ATF and without conducting background checks. This type of action is not without precedent, as many states have provided this type of explicit guidance regarding which vendors engaged in retail sales in the state are required to collect states’ sales tax. This change would be a positive step forward in closing the private sale loophole, a policy change that roughly 90 percent  of Americans support.  It would help ensure that those clearly holding themselves out as gun dealers are held to the same standard as the thousands of responsible gun dealers already licensed with ATF across the country.

Thank you for your continued efforts to reduce gun violence and for your consideration of executive action that could save lives. We look forward to continuing to work together on ways to prevent gun violence.

Sincerely,