Executive action will crack down on efforts to evade background checks by people
wanting to own one of these and other automatic weapons.
Vice President Joe Biden Thursday announced
two new executive actions the Obama administration believes will help curb the number of guns that wind up in the wrong hands. As expected, the National Rifle Association issued a whine saying the actions won't accomplish anything other than hurting "law-abiding gun owners." The actions build on the 23 announced
by the president in January.
The actions will restrict the reimportation of surplus military-grade weapons solely to museums and will close a loophole that allows people to evade required background checks for owning machine-guns and short-barreled shotguns by registering them with trusts or corporations.
Reimportation of military-grade weapons that the United States previously sold or donated to its allies overseas currently requires federal approval. But since 2005, officials say the government has okayed the reimportation of more than 250,000 such firearms by private entities. Except for museums, which presumably will seek only a handful of these obsolete weapons, no further reimportations will be allowed.
Since 1934, anyone wanting to own machine-guns and other restricted firearms has been required to undergo an extensive FBI background check, pay a $200 tax and register the weapon. But this requirement can be skirted when the registered owner is a trust or corporation because there is no background check of the trustees or beneficiaries of such entities. The government says that last year alone, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received 39,000 requests for transfers of restricted weapons to trusts or corporations. Some of these firearms end up in criminal hands, officials say. Under the new executive action, background checks will be required of trustees and beneficiaries of those entities owning the restricted weapons.
The reimportation action takes effect immediately. But the action on firearms registered to corporations must undergo a 90-day public comment period before ATF reviews suggestions and finalizes the rule.
The NRA responded in typical fashion:
"The Obama administration has once again completely missed the mark when it comes to stopping violent crime," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. "This administration should get serious about prosecuting violent criminals who misuse guns and stop focusing its efforts on law-abiding gun owners."
The gun-manufacturers' mouthpiece, along with other gun lobbies, have worked diligently to keep firearms widely available to criminals by employing scare tactics—they're coming to take all your guns
—to fight legislation like that defeated in April that would have required background checks for almost all private sales and other transfers of guns. Sales through licensed dealers already require such checks. Polls have shown for more than a year that, in every state, a large majority of Americans, including gun-owners, support background checks.