Joe Biden tightens legal grip on arms dealers in US

US President Joe Biden speaks about lowering healthcare costs, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 29, 2023. — AFP
US President Joe Biden speaks about lowering healthcare costs, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 29, 2023. — AFP

As the number of US mass shootings topped over 470, with numerous lives lost, President Joe Biden initiated a crackdown Thursday on the country’s arms dealers who are involved in selling weapons without valid licenses — that enable them to perform screening of buyers — by exploiting the legal loopholes.

The rules also tighten the grip on collectors who buy and sell guns, and on failed gun dealers selling their inventories.

The detailed rules were released by the Justice Department that follow the Joe Biden-backed Safer Communities Act passed by Congress in June 2022 in reaction to the large number of shooting deaths — especially in mass shootings — across the country.

The Justice Department said: “The aim is to force more firearms sellers to check the backgrounds of prospective purchasers in a national database in order to screen out felons and others forbidden from owning guns.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is an act in which four or more people are injured or killed.

In the past three years, there have been over 600 gun violence incidents per year — making it almost two a day on average.

The rules are aimed at closing the gaps in the law that enable gun dealers to avoid securing licenses by claiming not to make money from transactions or by saying their lack of a storefront or insignificant sales volume exempts them from dealer requirements.

“It also allows the government to better track registered firearms from owner to owner,” DOJ said.

Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives noted: “An increasing number of individuals engaged in the business of selling firearms for profit have chosen not to register as federal firearms licensees, as required by law.”

“Instead, they have sought to make money through the off-book, illicit sale of firearms,” he said in a statement.

The Justice Department said that unlicensed dealing undermines federal rules aimed at increasing gun safety.

According to the estimates by the Gun Violence Archive, 44,374 people were killed by guns across the US last year, however, the number was down slightly this year, at 28,793 for the first eight months.

Suicides account for about 55% of all gun deaths.

The rules came to the fore just days after three black people were fatally shot including a woman after an armed suspect entered a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida and went on to kill people with an AR-style rifle before shooting himself.

Sheriff TK Waters said in a news conference: “The shooter, a white male in his early 20s, was outfitted with a tactical vest and armed with an AR-style rifle and a handgun when he started firing inside a Dollar General discount store.”

“He targeted a certain group of people and that’s Black people. That’s what he said he wanted to kill. And that’s very clear,” the sheriff said.

“Manifestos discovered by the gunman’s family shortly before the attack detail the shooter’s disgusting ideology of hate,” he told reporters.

Mass shootings have become disturbingly common across the US, with easy access to firearms in most states and more guns in the country than citizens.

Earlier, seven people were transported to hospital after a mass shooting at a Caribbean festival in the northeast city of Boston, according to the police.

The night before that, two women were shot at a baseball game in Chicago.

That same night a 16-year-old was fatally shot and four others were wounded after an argument erupted at a high school football game in Oklahoma, local police stated.

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