Florida challenges a Biden administration rule on gun sellers

guns gun violence die-in
Die-in against gun violence, Tampa. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (12 June 2018).

By Jim Saunders ©2024 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a new Biden administration rule that will require more gun sellers to be licensed and run background checks on buyers.

Moody’s office filed the lawsuit in Tampa, alleging that the Biden administration overstepped its legal authority. Moody said in a prepared statement that the rule would “force thousands of law-abiding gun owners to register as federal firearms dealers and navigate a federal bureaucracy.”

The Biden administration announced last month that it had finalized the rule, which it said is designed to close “loopholes” in a system that requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks. An April 11 overview posted on the White House website said “a growing number of unlicensed sellers continue to sell firearms for profit to complete strangers they meet at gun shows and online marketplaces, which has been a critical gap in the background check laws.”

The rule stems from a 2022 law that made changes in the background-check system. Moody’s lawsuit contends that the rule goes “far beyond” the law and violates what is known as the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

In part, the lawsuit focuses on part of the rule about people who resell guns, making them more likely to be considered dealers who need licenses. As an example, it partially quoted federal law and said the rule “obliterates the exception to the definition of ‘dealer’ for ‘a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms.’”

“Many gun owners buy and then resell firearms,” the lawsuit said. “Sometimes they do so only to add to their personal collection. … (However), sometimes increasing the value of that collection is one of their motives — just as collectors of other items hope their collections will gain value and potentially be resold for a profit.”

The lawsuit also contended that an increase in background checks because of the rule would have a “significant impact” on Florida, which performs checks through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“Unlike in many states, Florida conducts background checks at the state level rather than relying on the federal government,” the lawsuit said. “Florida does so even though state law does not mandate background checks for firearms sales beyond what federal law requires.”

But in the April 11 overview, the White House said the rule will “save lives by reducing the number of firearms sold without background checks” and that it “explicitly states that making occasional sales of a firearm from a personal collection or liquidating collection does not require a federal firearms license or background checks.”

The overview said the rule lists activities indicating that sellers must be licensed as dealers and run background checks.

“For example, if a person is repetitively selling guns of the same or similar make and model within one year of their purchase, they are supposed to become a licensed dealer,” the overview said. “If a person repetitively sells firearms within 30 days of purchasing those firearms, or selling firearms and tells potential buyers that they can acquire additional firearms for that buyer to purchase, the seller is supposed to become a licensed dealer.”

Moody has filed — or signed onto — a series of lawsuits in recent years challenging Biden administration decisions.

As an example, she joined Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia in filing a lawsuit Monday about a new rule carrying out Title IX, a landmark 1972 law that bars discrimination in education programs based on sex. That lawsuit alleges, in part, that the Biden administration overstepped its legal authority in extending the regulations to apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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