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There's a new plan to boost background checks for guns bought at shows or online

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The White House is announcing a new rule today to tighten background checks on gun purchases. The measure is scheduled to go into effect in 30 days. Anyone who sells guns will then have to run federal background checks, regardless of where the transaction takes place - stores, flea markets, gun shows and social media. This would reduce what is known as the, quote-unquote, "gun show loophole." Joining us now to tell us more about this is Stefanie Feldman. She is the director of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Good morning, Ms. Feldman.

STEFANIE FELDMAN: Good morning.

MARTIN: Can you put some numbers on this? How many dealers and how many purchases do you think will be affected by this new rule?

FELDMAN: Yes. So there are going to be tens of thousands of firearm sales a year that are now going to have to undergo background checks. Right now there are about 80,000 federally licensed firearms dealers. And the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms estimates that about 20,000 additional sellers of firearms are going to have to become licensed dealers under this new rule and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which it implements. So it's a big change.

MARTIN: So if this is going to be as effective as you think it will be, why now, right before an election? I mean, gun sales have been surging for years. The guns show - the so-called gun show loophole has been in effect for years. Why didn't the administration do this sooner?

FELDMAN: This is really an accomplishment that is 25 years in the making. In 1999, after the Columbine High School shooting, people tried and failed to pass universal background checks. In 2013, Vice President Biden stood in the Rose Garden with then-President Obama after universal background checks failed. President Biden succeeded in 2022 in passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which included a legislative fix that created the space for this rulemaking by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. And that process has now concluded. And thanks to President Biden's leadership, we're now able to implement this law and make sure that we're having fewer guns sold without background checks.

MARTIN: So you're confident that this measure will withstand legal challenges?

FELDMAN: We are confident that this measure complies with the law. The Department of Justice scoped it to make sure that it follows the statute and it doesn't violate the Second Amendment. We expect legal challenges, as we've had to all of President Biden's actions to reduce gun violence. But again and again, courts have recognized that common-sense gun laws hold up.

MARTIN: And could this be unwound by the next administration, should there be a change in the White House after the election?

FELDMAN: We believe that any future administration could unwind rulemaking processes, and not just this rule but any other rules. But we believe that the American people are clear that this is the action they need to take - unusual for the past for firearm safety rules, three-quarters of the public that commented on this rule supported it. So this is following the desires of the American people. The vast majority of people support expanding background checks. So, yes, the next administration could choose to undo this rule, but the American people are clear - they want it to stand.

MARTIN: And can the background check system handle this? I mean, there have been reports over the years that, you know, as we said earlier, gun purchases have surged in recent years. And can the system handle this? I mean, there have been reports about, you know, people working, you know, hours and hours of overtime just to keep up or people quitting because of burnout, and also the fact that if they - there are hard deadlines - that if a background check can't be completed within a certain time frame, then gun dealers are free to sort of proceed with these - with distributing these weapons. So can the system handle this?

FELDMAN: Yes, it can. The hardworking people of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who run the federal background check system, absolutely work long hours, and we're so grateful for the tireless effort they put in. The background check system is extremely effective. The vast majority of background checks take 90 seconds or less when someone's in the store. There are cases that are - that take a longer amount of time, because there is - additional investigation is needed, but the background check system is ready. We do need Congress to provide additional funding so we can better enforce the law, but the FBI is ready to go to implement this.

MARTIN: That is Stefanie Feldman, director of the White House Office of Gun Control Prevention - Gun Violence Prevention. Stefanie Feldman, thank you so much for joining us.

FELDMAN: Thank you.

MARTIN: And here's where I want to mention that gun violence is the No. 1 killer of children and teens in this country - that, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Prevention is a top issue for many young voters, so next week, NPR News is launching a series about the issues that matter to you, the voters, in this election year. First up is kids, guns and America. So starting Monday, join us for We the Voters - The Left, the Right and the Disillusioned. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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