Press Releases

Carper, Coons Urge White House to Take Executive Action to Reduce Gun Violence

Carper, Coons, 22 Senate Democrats call on White House to close loophole in face of Congressional inaction, urging President Obama to take "executive action that could save lives"

Nov 23 2015

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-Del.) joined a group of 22 Senate Democrats led by Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal (both D-Conn.) to call on on President Barack Obama to investigate and pursue all possible options under his executive authority to reduce gun violence. In a letter to the President, the senators specially urged him to eliminate a loophole that currently allows individuals without a federal license to conduct high volumes of gun sales at gun shows, over the internet, and elsewhere, all without conducting background checks. U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, today sent a similar letter signed by 114 of his colleagues in the House.

“We stand with you determined to take action to reduce the terrible epidemic of gun violence plaguing this nation.  All across the country, communities are ravaged and lives are senselessly cut short by gun violence. 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,” the Senators wrote. “We urge you to address an aspect of the high-volume gun seller 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.”

“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 would…help ensure that individuals are not able to continue to exploit ambiguity in the current regulation and sell guns at a high volume without any oversight by ATF and without conducting background checks… 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,” the Senators continued.

Along with Senators Murphy and Blumenthal, Senators Carper and Coons were joined by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Charles E Schumer (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). 

Read the full text of the letter online or below:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW               
Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President:

We stand with you determined to take action to reduce the terrible epidemic of gun violence plaguing this nation.  All across the country, communities are ravaged and lives are senselessly cut short by gun violence. 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.

We will continue to make every effort to build support for and demand a vote on legislation to improve background checks, close loopholes, and shut down the illegal pipeline of guns. We will not give up the fight to improve our nation’s gun laws to reflect the broad agreement of gun owners and non-gun owners who want Congress to act to halt gun violence.

We ask you, concurrently, to investigate and pursue all available options under your executive authority to reduce gun violence.  Specifically, your administration could take an immediate step that would have an important impact on limiting gun violence. We urge you to address an aspect of the high-volume gun seller 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," needs clarification. Currently, individuals are able to sell guns at a high volume at gun shows, over the internet, or elsewhere without ever 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 would not impact a father giving a gun to his son, or an individual selling his gun on the internet. But it will help ensure that individuals are not able to continue to exploit 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 state sales tax. 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. 

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 to prevent gun violence.

Sincerely, 


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