New ATF Rule Proposes Background Checks for Private Gun Sales

 April 11, 2024

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is stepping into new territory with a bold proposal.

The ATF has announced a significant proposal that could extend the requirement of background checks to many private gun sales, aiming to make the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) applicable to transactions currently exempt under the law.

Only federally licensed firearms dealers are mandated to conduct background checks on buyers. This mandate, born from the Brady Act of 1993, left a sizable gap in the regulation of private gun sales.

According to Breitbart News, the proposal by the ATF seeks to bridge this gap by redefining what it means to be "engaged in the business of selling firearms." This change targets those who sell guns privately and may now need to prove they are not doing so for profit to bypass the requirement of conducting a background check on their buyers.

Clarifying the Definition of Gun Sales Business

This newfound emphasis on background checks introduces a layer of ambiguity for private sellers. The ATF is also working to clarify what constitutes a "personal collection" and how former licensees can legally offload their inventories.

By broadening the scope of who is required to utilize the NICS, the ATF aims to create a more comprehensive trail of firearm transactions. Expanding background check mandates encompassing private gun sales symbolizes a significant policy shift in the United States.

This initiative comes as part of a larger push, predominantly from Democrats, to enforce stricter regulations on gun sales, a topic that has seen resistance within Congress.

The move is not without controversy. Critics have voiced concerns over the potential implications of the rule. One vocal opponent, providing their take under conditions of anonymity, outlined their worries regarding the ATF's proposal in stark terms:

Once again, the Biden Administration is weaponizing every tool in their toolbox to intimidate, harass, and criminalize gun owners with unlawful executive actions. This Backdoor Universal Registration Check rule is nothing more than a move to criminalize the sale of a single gun without a background check. By doing so, the government hopes to ensure that they are fully involved in every firearm transfer, and, eventually, the records of all those transfers will end up in their records database.

Impact of the Proposed Rule on America's Gun Sales

Adding to the historical context, before the enactment of the Brady Act in 1993, firearm sales did not require a background check. Consequently, many firearms sold between 1791 and 1993 lack a documented purchase history.

The ATF's proposed rule is awaiting publication in the Federal Register. Its implementation is set to occur 30 days after publication, marking a pivotal moment in the regulation of firearms in the United States.

With this proposal, the ATF aims to include a larger segment of gun sales under regulatory oversight. By mandating background checks for private, non-licensed gun sales, the goal is to enhance the safety and security of the American people by ensuring only qualified individuals have access to firearms.


The ATF's proposed rule to extend background checks to many private gun sales represents a significant step towards tightening the oversight of firearm transactions in the United States. By redefining what it means to be engaged in the business of selling guns, the ATF seeks to close existing loopholes that have allowed unregulated sales to flourish. This move, while controversial, is framed as an effort to enhance public safety and create a more robust tracking system for firearms ownership across the country.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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