How President Obama’s Executive Action Will Crack Down on Gun Traffickers

January 5, 2016

President Obama has taken an executive action that will help keep unlicensed gun sellers from fueling the black market. This executive action will clarify the rules around which gun sellers are required to get a dealer license and conduct background checks.

Prior to the President’s recent action, the difference between professional gun dealers and occasional, unlicensed sellers was hazy, and the lack of clarity obstructed law enforcement from being able to crack down on people who sold large quantities of guns for profit without a license, even those offering more than 100 guns a year. And because only licensed dealers are required to run background checks on gun sales, many of these unlicensed sellers ended up funneling guns into the black market or directly into the hands of criminals.

Find out more about how this new executive action cracks down on gun traffickers below.

Only federally licensed gun dealers are required to run background checks on all gun sales.

But people who ‘make occasional sales…for a hobby’ or who sell guns from their personal collections aren’t required to get a license, and don’t have to run background checks. Both gun sellers and law enforcement have had difficulty distinguishing who is ‘engaged in the business’ and who is an ‘occasional’ seller, but the new executive action makes that difference more clear.

Expand to see the current definition of "Engaged in the Business"

The current definition of “Engaged in the Business” was written into law by the 1986 Firearm Owners’ Protection Act.

The executive action clarifies who is "engaged in the business" of selling firearms, and will help stop unlicensed high-volume sellers from operating without adopting the common-sense measures required of professional dealers.

The lack of clarity makes it hard for law enforcement to police the boundary between professional gun dealers and unlicensed sellers and to bring bad actors to justice. As a result, people who sell hundreds of guns a year and make tens of thousands of dollars in profit currently do so without running background checks on their buyers, and with little risk of punishment.

The executive action will only affect people who are engaged in business of selling guns without a license.

It will have a disproportionate impact on unlicensed firearms sellers who regularly sell high numbers of guns. Because the licensing requirement was so vague, many sellers have been able to sell large quantities of guns without a license or conducting background checks on prospective buyers — up to 150 a year. And dangerous people can contact these sellers — online, through gun shows, or elsewhere — and get easy access to firearms, no questions asked.

This executive action will not affect the many law-abiding gun owners who truly trade and sell guns occasionally or as a hobby.

Instead, it will crack down on sellers who are evading the background check requirement and selling guns regularly.

Making it clear who's ‘engaged in the business’ is different from closing legal loopholes in the background check system.

Federal law requires criminal background checks for all gun sales by licensed gun dealers. But felons, domestic abusers, and other dangerous people can easily avoid background checks by buying from unlicensed sellers, including those selling at gun shows or advertising online. Clarifying the ‘engaged in the business’ standard can narrow this loophole by making sure that everyone who is ‘engaged in the business’ conducts background checks, but millions of guns will still exchange hands each year between unlicensed buyers and sellers, no background check, no questions asked. Congress and state legislatures must act to close that gap.