WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Thursday it has closed a loophole in the gun laws that allowed the acquisition of machine guns and other dangerous weapons and has banned U.S. military-style firearms that were sent overseas from returning to this country.
The announcement of the two new executive actions came as Vice President Joe Biden swore in the new head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Biden pledged that the White House will not give up its effort for more gun control despite congressional inaction after the shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school late last year.
“The president and I remain committed to getting these things done,” Biden said at the White House ceremony installing B. Todd Jones as the ATF’s first permanent director in seven years. “If Congress won’t act, we’ll fight for a new Congress. It’s that simple. But we’re going to get this done.”
In the past, individuals seeking to avoid personal background checks for machine guns and short-barreled shotguns have claimed they were “trusts or corporations.” But a new ATF regulation will close that loophole and require them to pass background checks. The ATF said that last year, it received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these firearms to trusts and corporations in ruses to skirt the checks.
“It’s a very artful dodge,” Biden said.
The other executive action was aimed at keeping U.S. military weapons sold to foreign governments from being re-imported to individuals back in this country. Since 2005, the U.S. government has authorized requests to re-import more than 250,000 of these firearms. Under the new rule, only firearms re-imported for museums and other such exceptions would be allowed.
“The new policy is going to help keep military-grade firearms off our streets,” said the vice president, who after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was tasked with overseeing an effort to come up with gun control and mental health measures.
The executive actions drew quick criticism from gun rights organizations, which said the requirements will not lower gun violence but instead only continue the president’s fight against legitimate gun enthusiasts.
“Evidently he’s been elected king, and not president,” said Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. “He’s made it fairly clear that he doesn’t like the Second Amendment.”
However, others welcomed the executive orders.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said 90 percent of the American public demands stronger background checks, and that “today the Obama administration locked one backdoor used to get around” those firearm inspections.