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AG sues over Biden Administration efforts to close ‘gun show loophole’

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin.
John Sykes
Arkansas Advocate
Efforts by the federal government to close the so-called “gun show loophole” are the target of a lawsuit by Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin.

Arkansas’ attorney general is heading up a legal challenge to the Biden Administration’s attempt to close what’s known as the “gun show loophole.”

Attorney General Tim Griffin announced Wednesday he’s leading a coalition of 20 other state attorneys general in a lawsuit challenging a new rule proposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The rule would require thousands more firearm dealers to obtain licenses and run background checks on potential buyers.

In a press conference Wednesday, Griffin said the Biden Administration overstepped its authority in making the rule.

“On many items and many areas, they have to go through Congress to change the law. And I know that they’re doing this because they’ve been unable to change it through Congress, they’re frustrated. I get it, but their frustration, their political inability to get what they want through the Congress does not change our constitutional structure,” Griffin said.

A 1985 law known as the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act requires people who make “repetitive” gun sales to be federally licensed and conduct background checks, though that standard is open to interpretation. Purchases and sales made by individuals at gun shows without running background checks has become known as the “gun show loophole.”

Griffin said more clarity is needed on the original law dictating federal firearm licensing requirements.

“The law has never been perfectly clear as to where the ATF will draw the line and say, ‘because of this number of transactions, we consider you someone who needs a federal firearm license,’” Griffin said. “This proposed rule does not help clarify anything.”

The ATF rule would require anyone who sells guns to make a profit to have a license, and to conduct background checks on buyers.

Griffin also mentioned former Little Rock National Airport Director Bryan Malinowski, who was killed by ATF agents following an early-morning raid on his house in March. Malinowski was accused of making hundreds of gun sales without a license, and without running background checks on potential buyers.

“Mr. Malinowski was a frequent attendee of gun shows and collected firearms, which is not illegal. And for whatever reason, the ATF believed that he had somehow met the nebulous, somewhat subjective standard as to what constitutes a federal firearm dealer and what doesn’t,” he said.

The suit calls for the postponement of the rule, and for a court to declare it unconstitutional. Griffin is co-leading the lawsuit along with Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, and is joined in the suit by the attorneys general of Iowa, Montana, Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

This marks the latest attempt by Griffin to overturn Biden Administration policy; his office has recently sued over policies relating to student loan forgiveness, power plant emissions and protections for workers seeking an abortion.

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.