Editorial: It’s time to close a potentially deadly gun-sale loophole

In the face of unwavering intransigence by the Republican-controlled Congress, a group of 24 Democratic U.S. Senators have asked President Barack Obama to act unilaterally to close the inexcusable federal regulation loophole that allows gun sales without background checks.

As they have through their relatively brief careers to date, Connecticut Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are pressing this issue. What they are urging now is that the president look into all options available under his executive authority to close the loophole that lets individuals without a federal license sell guns at gun shows and over the Internet without conducting background checks.

At the heart of the issue, according to the 24 senators’ letter to the president, is eliminating ambiguity in the phrase “engaged in the business” as it applies to gun dealers.

Current law requires those “engaged in the business” to get a license from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Only federally licensed dealers are required to perform a background check on a prospective purchaser. As it stands now, though, individuals are allowed to sell guns at gun shows, over the Internet and in some other circumstances, without being licensed. Therefore, they are not required to perform a background check.

There is absolutely no reason, no circumstance, no excuse — no anything — for selling a gun to a person about whom you know nothing.

The regulatory definition of “engaged in the business” needs to be expanded to plug this existing loophole for these other sellers.

The senators’ letter reads, in part, “This change would be a positive step forward in achieving universal background checks, 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.”

In fact, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll taken in October, 92 percent of Americans — including 87 percent of Republicans — favor universal background checks.

It’s not the passing down of a gun from a father to a son, or an individual selling a gun that is the target of the senators’ appeal to the president. It’s intended to stop the high-volume sales by unlicensed dealers.
The majority of Americans want universal background checks for gun sales.

It just makes sense.

Last October, Blumenthal and Murphy were in the forefront of an effort to close another loophole, that being an exemption to a background check if the process goes longer than expected.

If a background check turns up a criminal record, the FBI has 72 hours to determine if the person can legally buy a gun. As the law stands now, if 72 hours passes without a reply from the FBI, the sale can proceed.

Another unnecessary accommodation that flies in the face of gun safety.

We applaud Blumenthal, Murphy and their colleagues for keeping this gun safety issue in the public eye and for pushing it on to the desk of the president.