What Obama’s New Executive Actions Mean for Gun Owners

   01.05.16

The Obama administration has released details on its incoming executive actions on gun control. Straight from the White House’s site (complete with a word missing in the headline), we’ve pasted the pertinent parts below broken out section-by-section and provided our best interpretations of what the political talk will mean for gun owners on the ground.

1. Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is making clear that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks.<

ATF is finalizing a rule to require background checks for people trying to buy some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust, corporation, or other legal entity.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has sent a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient. The envisioned improvements include processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun. The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners and other staff to help process these background checks.

Our reading: Presumably the first paragraph could mean that there may be some kind of new FFL or background check requirement for private or otherwise online sales coming down the line, but the wording is unclear—and, as we know, the federal government doesn’t know how buying a gun on the internet actually works. As most gun owners are aware, if you’re a dealer at a gun show, you’re already required to run background checks on any purchasers.

On the brightside, with NICS operating 24/7 in the future, this means you may be able to visit a big-box sporting goods store that is open all night and pick up a firearm without having to conform to regular business hours, which is a good thing for those working odd shifts or finding themselves short on the first day of hunting season.

The mumbo jumbo about “the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust, corporation or other legal entity” relates to so-called NFA (Nation Firearms Act) trusts, which until recently made it much simpler to acquire expensive, federally-regulated items like machine guns and suppressors.

To wit, the Department of Justice has issued their final 41P rule that has been bouncing around since 2013 clarifying “responsible person” in trusts and makes them subject to a background check in NFA transfers for items such as suppressors and select-fire guns. Fingerprints and photos will now be required for all “responsible parties” in trusts—unless you have done one in the past two years and everything remains the same. While there will be an FBI NICS check, the long-standing CLEO (chief law enforcement officer) certification requirement, which has been integral to the whole process and is the reason why people went to trusts in the first place, will be gone in 180 days. A CLEO must be notified of transfer or manufacturing of an NFA item in their jurisdiction, but they don’t have to certify the application. Overall, it makes the process for individuals buying NFA items easier, while throwing up another hoop for those using trusts.

Next the administration wants to clarify just who is “engaged in the business” of selling guns, without actually putting a number on how many gun sales a year constitute being considered a firearms dealer. “For example, courts have upheld convictions for dealing without a license when as few as two firearms were sold or when only one or two transactions took place, when other factors also were present,” reads the Fact Sheet.

This could mean that those getting rid of just a couple firearms from their personal collection, if the transfer is scrutinized in the right way or by the right person, could result in a charge of selling without a federal firearms license. While many have pointed to extenuating circumstances, such as printing and distributing business cards, setting up tables at gun shows, or quickly “flipping” guns for a profit as part of the “other factors” when taking this into consideration, it still could lead to a slippery slope for private person-to-person gun sales not completed through a dealer, which is likely the whole point.  Such charges carry a five-year jail term and up to a $250,000 fine.

Making Our Communities Safer from Gun Violence

Ensure smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws. […]

Ensure that dealers notify law enforcement about the theft or loss of their guns. […]

Issue a memo directing every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts. […]

Our reading: Some 200 shiny new ATF agents are authorized in the President’s FY17 budget and the bureau is dedicating some $4 million in new funds to enhance their National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN), which is used to run ballistic evidence data collected from crime scenes. Also, the agency’s Internet Investigations Center (IIC) is expanding its reach across the internet, looking for those selling guns online to criminals so be mindful of what you say about background checks and gun transfers on social media.

Due to the fact that some 1,300 recovered guns in the past five years have been traced back to dealers who never reported them stolen as required under current law due to confusion over shipper’s obligations on guns lost in transit, the ATF is clarifying their rules that the FFL shipping a gun is responsible for reporting it lost or stolen if it never shows up at the intended destination.

Increase Mental Health Treatment and Reporting to the Background Check System

Dedicate significant new resources to increase access to mental health care. […]

Include information from the Social Security Administration in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm. […]

Remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information to the background check system. […]

Our reading: While touting the gains of Obamacare, the administration is pledging some $500 million to help fund mental health, or about $1.57 per person. “This effort would increase access to mental health services to protect the health of children and communities, prevent suicide, and promote mental health as a top priority,” reads the Fact Sheet.

Moreover, to add to the list of those prohibited possessors on the FBI’s list of those who are not able to purchase guns, the Social Security Administration will begin forwarding a list of those with mental illness issue who receive benefits through a designated payee at a rate of about 75,000 per year. The National Rifle Association has been vigorously fighting against just such a provision as a violation of Second Amendment rights, though the White House argues there will be a way for those affected to restore their gun rights.

You can bet you haven’t heard the last of this fresh morass.

Shaping the Future of Gun Safety Technology […]

Our reading: President Obama is taking a two-pronged approach to bringing technologically troubled “smart guns” to acceptance and eventual adoption. This includes ordering the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to take the next 90 days and prepare a R&D strategy towards developing the technology. Next, in an effort to get these guns into the hands of the government, he is also instructing those cabinet-level departments to keep “smart gun” tech in mind when buying new arms. Of course, there is no budget allocation for either step, so you can hold your breath and wait to see how long it takes for an M4 to pop up in the military that uses high-tech gadgetry to prevent its unauthorized use.

Matt Korovesis contributed to this article.

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