White House Rolls Out Executive Actions On Guns

Kerry Picket Political Reporter
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The Obama administration rolled out a series of executive actions on gun policy Monday night that would expand background checks for firearms.

“The President and Vice President are committed to using every tool at the Administration’s disposal to reduce gun violence,” the White House said in a statement.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will begin to enforce the rule that anyone selling firearms from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet must have a Federal Firearms License and conduct background checks. The administration says that there is no “specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement.”

“But it is important to note that even a few transactions, when combined with other evidence, can be sufficient to establish that a person is ‘engaged in the business,'” the White House said, warning that courts have upheld convictions for dealing without a license when as few as two guns were sold or when only one or two transactions happened, when other factors also were present.

The administration made no clarification as to whether a non-licensed seller would still be in compliance with the law if the individual was selling a firearm to a licensed dealer.

The Social Security Administration will start the rule making process to include information in the background check system regarding beneficiaries who are banned from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.

The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to eliminate legal obstacles preventing the states from reporting “relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.”

“The reporting that SSA, in consultation with the Department of Justice, is expected to require will cover appropriate records of the approximately 75,000 people each year who have a documented mental health issue, receive disability benefits, and are unable to manage those benefits because of their mental impairment, or who have been found by a state or federal court to be legally incompetent,” the White House said in a statement.

“The rulemaking will also provide a mechanism for people to seek relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.”

The Obama administration says that some states raised concerns that such reporting would violate the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

However, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a rule on Monday permitting “certain HIPAA covered entities to provide to the NICS limited demographic and other necessary information about these individuals.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch sent a letter to the states in regards to the federal government’s need for a “complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified because of a mental illness, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation aims to overhaul its current National Instant Criminal background check system so processing background checks can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The FBI plans to hire over 230 additional examiners to process these background checks.

As a means of enforcement, two hundred new ATF agents and investigators, funded by the President’s FY2017 budget, will enforce the nation’s gun laws. The ATF created an Internet Investigation Center aimed at tracking illegal online firearms trafficking towards the enforcement effort.

The ATF is also finalizing a rule to hold firearm dealers responsible to notify law enforcement when theft or loss of their guns happen in transit.

In addition, the ATF is finalizing a rule to require background checks for anyone attempting to buy weapons or other items through a trust or other legal entity.

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