The Washington Post

Obama administration closes two gun sale loopholes

Vice President Joe Biden outlined new policies closing two gun sale loopholes through executive authority, subjecting gun purchases by corporations and trusts to background checks and banning almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities. (The Washington Post)

The White House announced Thursday it would close two gun sale loopholes through executive authority, by subjecting gun purchases by corporations and trusts to background checks and banning almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities.

Vice President Biden outlined the new policies during Thursday's swearing in of Todd Jones, the new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.While far less sweeping than the measure the administration tried to push through Congress in the wake of December's Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting, Biden said the actions show while he and Obama would continue to "work with the Congress to continue to strengthen gun safety laws in this country... the president is going to continue to do everything we can within our executive authority to try to reduce gun violence in America."

One measure would close a loophole under which felons, those convicted of domestic violence and others banned from having guns can evade required background checks for machine guns or other weapons by registering the gun to a trust or corporation. The ATF received more than 39,000 requests last year for transfers of restricted firearms to trusts or corporations, Biden said, calling it "a very artful dodge to get around people who are not capable legally of owning weapons to be able to gain access."

Under the new rule, individuals associated with trusts or corporations will now have to undergo a background check in the same way they would if they were buying the guns as individuals. "It's simple, it's straightforward, it's common sense," Biden said. "It's going to help ensure that machine guns and other particularly dangerous weapons don't end up in the hands of those who as a matter of law are not entitled to own them."

The other measure will end a government practice that allows military weapons, sold or donated by the United States to allies, to be re-imported into the United States by private groups. The White House said the United States has approved the re-importation of 250,000 such guns since 2005; under the new policy, only museums and a few other groups such as the government will be allowed to re-import these weapons.

Mark Barnes, a national firearms attorney based in D.C., said restricting these imports made no sense since they were destined for curio collectors. Barnes represents Century Arms Inc., who has spent two years seeking a permit to re-import nearly 80,000 M1 Garand rifles from South Korea, which was used widely by the U.S. armed forces in World War Two.

“We are talking about a firearm that is not an assault weapon,” Barnes said. “What is the point of preventing the lawful and responsible citizen from accessing a collectible?”

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said in a statement that “the Obama administration has once again completely missed the mark when it comes to stopping violent crime.”

“Requiring background checks for corporations and trusts does not keep firearms out of the hands of criminals,” he said. “Prohibiting the re-importation of firearms into the U.S. that were manufactured 50 or more years ago does not keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. This administration should get serious about prosecuting violent criminals who misuse guns and stop focusing its efforts on law-abiding gun owners.”</p><p>But Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that supports further restrictions on gun sales, welcomed the move.

“Like so many things about our gun policy, it is almost ridiculous to think that these steps were necessary,” the group said in a statement. “It is common sense to prevent felons from so easily circumventing background checks, and we should not allow private entities to purchase military-grade assault weapons any more than we should allow them to buy tanks.”

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.

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