Wyoming Joins Lawsuit To Stop New Biden Administration Gun Sales Rule

Wyoming has joined 20 other states in suing over a new Biden administration rule to increase licensing and background checks for people who sell guns.

Clair McFarland

May 08, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Saying the federal government’s recent attempt to close the “gun show loophole” by increasing gun vendor licensing and background checks is unconstitutional, Wyoming and 20 other states are suing stop the new rule.

The plaintiffs also quote a 1985 speech by then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, in which Biden said gun control would not reduce crime, and criminals could get guns with or without gun control laws.

Why The Suit?

Congress changed the 1968 Gun Control Act slightly two years ago by defining gun sellers subject to licensing requirements as people selling for profit, removing the law’s earlier caveat that those sellers also needed to be making a livelihood from gun sales to fall subject to the rigors of licensure.

President Biden and Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, then turned toward the ATF’s rule-making authority to cinch up the agency’s rules around the law tweak.

“From that tiny seed, the Biden administration and Defendant Dettelbach sought to smuggle in the backdoor what Congress had long-refused to allow in the front door,” says the lawsuit filed last week by Wyoming and the other states, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. “Near-universal background checks, with the criminal edges so fuzzy that few individuals would risk private sales of firearms.”

The ATF finalized its new rule April 10 to go into effect May 20, according to the rule’s text.

Suing along with the states are Kansas gun collectors Phillip Journey, who is also a state court judge; Allen Black, who sometimes sells guns from his personal collection at gun shows; and Donald Maxey.

Kansas-based nonprofit group Chisholm Trail Antiques Gun Association, which says it seeks to preserve the craftsmanship and history of guns through the ages and into the future, is also suing the federal government in this action.

The plaintiffs are asking a federal court to postpone the effective date of the ATF’s final rule during the case and ultimately declare the rule an unlawful violation of power and the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and to block the federal government from enforcing it.

A Little History

Congress did not try to regulate the interstate firearms industry until 1934 when it passed the National Firearms Act, requiring dealers of short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns and machineguns to register and pay a tax.

Four years later, Congress added a general licensing requirement for gun dealers, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938. It defined a “dealer” broadly as anyone selling guns, ammunition or ammunition components.

In late 1979 and early 1980, however, Congress held hearings to address complaints about the ATF’s enforcement techniques, concluding the law was so broad ATF was micromanaging law-abiding citizens and not properly focusing on lawbreakers.

The result was the federal Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA), which redefined dealers as people profiting from gun sales for their livelihood. It exempted casual sellers and hobbyists.

Then-Sen. Joe Biden liked the FOPA, saying it struck a fair balance between gun rights and enforcement.

“I have never believed that additional gun control or federal registration of guns would reduce crime,” said Biden, according to the states’ complaint. “I am convinced that a criminal who wants a firearm can get one through illegal, nontraceable, unregistered sources, with or without gun control.”

The plaintiffs theorize in their complaint that Biden pivoted from this viewpoint to yield to the “increasingly extreme demands of his gun restrictionist electoral base” while running for president.

The other states suing with Wyoming are:

  • Kansas

  • Arkansas

  • Iowa

  • Montana

  • Alaska

  • Alabama

  • Georgia

  • Idaho

  • Indiana

  • Kentucky

  • Missouri

  • Nebraska

  • New Hampshire

  • North Dakota

  • Oklahoma

  • South Carolina

  • South Dakota

  • Tennessee

  • Virginia

  • West Virginia

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter