President Barack Obama is deliberating an executive order that would escalate background check requirements in a revived gun control push following the deadly shootings at Umpqua Community College last week.
The proposed measure would enable the president to sidestep Congress to require anyone who surpasses a set number of gun sales to acquire a federal license and conduct background checks on customers purchasing firearms, according to The Washington Post.
The change would broaden the definition of those considered a firearms dealer under federal law, encompassing a broad number of people who are currently exempt.
Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said the president does not have the legal authority to extend this definition because the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which established the system of requirements for background checks, explicitly defines who qualifies as a firearms dealer.
“If the president tries to use executive action to expand the law beyond what it currently says he would be twisting the law in a way that he is not allowed to do,” von Spakovsky said.
The law presently requires anyone who is “engaged in the business” of dealing firearms to obtain a federal license, which then mandates the dealer to perform background checks, but it further exempts anyone “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.”
The White House’s measure would redefine who is “engaged in the business” of selling guns to include anyone who sells 50 or 100 guns a year, though that number is not yet finalized, sources told NBC.
If the executive order takes effect, anyone who then surpassed that threshold would be required to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and conduct background checks.
Von Spakovsky said if the president attempts to expand the background check system to individuals or entities not currently encompassed under federal law those affected would have grounds to pursue a lawsuit.
“This will not be one of those cases where it will be tough for anyone to establish standing or prove injury through this measure to sue the president,” von Spakovsky said. “This will be easy to do.”
The administration’s consideration comes as Obama travels to Roseburg, Oregon, Friday to meet with the survivors and families of the victims killed in last week’s tragedy at Umpqua Community College.
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