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June 15, 2024

More States Block Biden's Gun Show Rule After Judge's Ruling

A federal judge in Texas has broadened an injunction preventing the Biden administration from enforcing a rule designed to close the so-called "gun show loophole," extending the block to include an additional three states: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Utah.

President Joe Biden has been working to mitigate gun violence through a series of executive actions and regulatory measures. One of these measures, announced in April and set to take effect on May 20, aimed to close the "gun show loophole" by requiring all firearm sellers to perform background checks on their customers. This rule redefines what it means to be "engaged in the business as a dealer in firearms" to include those selling guns at gun shows or online, thereby subjecting them to the same licensing and background check requirements as traditional gun dealers.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, issued an injunction preventing the rule from being enforced in Texas. This decision was initially limited to the state of Texas and a few gun owner associations. However, in a ruling on Wednesday, Kacsmaryk expanded this injunction to cover Louisiana, Mississippi, and Utah as well.

In his 21-page ruling, Kacsmaryk sided with the plaintiffs, which included the four states, several organizations, and an individual. They argued that the Biden administration had violated administrative law when finalizing the new rule and contended that the rule shifted the burden of proof unfairly onto firearm owners, requiring them to demonstrate their innocence rather than the government proving their guilt.

"Plaintiffs understandably fear that these presumptions will trigger civil or criminal penalties for conduct deemed lawful just yesterday," Kacsmaryk wrote in his ruling.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led the coalition challenging the rule, hailed the expanded injunction as a victory for Second Amendment rights.

"Biden's unconstitutional rule cannot be enforced in Texas or these additional states," Paxton declared. "I'm proud to fight and win for our Second Amendment rights."

The Context and Controversy

President Biden's administration has sought to address gun violence through regulatory measures aimed at tightening background check requirements and closing perceived loopholes that allow certain firearm sales to occur without scrutiny. The "gun show loophole" has long been a point of contention in the debate over gun control. Critics argue that it enables individuals to purchase firearms from private sellers at gun shows or through online marketplaces without undergoing a background check, potentially allowing firearms to fall into the hands of those prohibited from owning them.

The rule introduced by the Biden administration redefined the criteria for what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms. This redefinition aimed to ensure that more sellers, particularly those operating at gun shows or through online platforms, would be subject to federal licensing and background check requirements.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against this rule argued that it represented an overreach by the federal government and imposed undue burdens on gun owners and sellers. They claimed that the rule was vague and could criminalize lawful behavior, forcing gun owners to prove their innocence in situations where the burden should be on the government to prove guilt.

Legal and Political Implications

The expansion of the injunction to include Louisiana, Mississippi, and Utah indicates a broader pushback against the Biden administration's gun control measures in conservative-leaning states. This legal battle is part of a larger national debate over the balance between gun rights and public safety.

Supporters of the Biden administration's rule argue that closing the gun show loophole is essential for preventing firearms from falling into the wrong hands. They contend that the loophole allows individuals who might not pass a background check to obtain firearms through unregulated channels, thereby undermining efforts to ensure that only responsible, law-abiding citizens have access to guns.

Opponents, however, see the rule as an infringement on Second Amendment rights and a burdensome regulation that could criminalize ordinary gun ownership. They argue that the rule's vague definitions and the shift in the burden of proof could lead to legal uncertainty and potentially unfair prosecutions.

The Path Forward

The expanded injunction against the rule represents a significant setback for the Biden administration's efforts to tighten gun regulations through executive action. The legal challenge underscores the difficulty of enacting comprehensive gun control measures in a deeply divided political landscape where gun rights remain a highly contentious issue.

Moving forward, the case is likely to continue through the appeals process, potentially reaching higher courts and setting important precedents for the scope of executive power in regulating firearms. Meanwhile, the Biden administration may seek other avenues to promote its gun control agenda, including potential legislative efforts or additional regulatory measures designed to withstand legal scrutiny.

For now, the expanded injunction means that the new rule will not be enforced in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Utah, allowing gun sales at shows and online to continue under existing regulations. This development highlights the ongoing tug-of-war between federal efforts to regulate firearms and state-level resistance grounded in Second Amendment advocacy.

As the legal battle unfolds, it will remain a focal point in the broader debate over how best to balance individual rights with the need to address gun violence, a critical issue that continues to shape American politics and policy.