Republican Senators Unite to Block ATF Rule

( – Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in 2022. The legislation was the first gun control bill passed at the federal level in decades. One of the things it did was allow expanded background checks. Conservative lawmakers are now trying to block a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) rule implementing the expansion.

On May 15, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and 44 other GOP senators introduced S.J. Res. 83, a Congressional Review Act joint resolution of disapproval. The resolution seeks to overturn the latest ATF rule that requires more gun sellers to run background checks. For example, individuals selling firearms at gun shows are now required to run them, thus closing the gun show loophole.

Cornyn negotiated the 2022 gun bill that allowed the ATF to expand the background checks, but he’s angry now. Roll Call reported that the Republican senator argued the new rule went beyond what he intended. He said every time Democrats “ask for bipartisanship […] they overreach and undermine any sort of good-faith negotiations” lawmakers engage in moving forward.

Twenty-six Republican attorneys general have sued the ATF to block the expanded rule from going into effect.

Moms Demand Gun Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, two gun control groups formed in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, released statements responding to the 45 senators. John Feinblatt, Everytown’s president, argued that repealing the ATF rule would make it easier for criminals and traffickers to get weapons. He called on the Senate to vote against the resolution.

Moms Demand Action Executive Director Angela Ferrell-Zabala argued the American people support stronger background checks and said repealing the rule would allow traffickers to continue to profit from the gun violence crisis.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), another one of the Republicans who negotiated the bill, is among those trying to stop the ATF rule. He praised the Democratic lawmakers who worked with him to negotiate the bill but issued a warning. Tillis explained the legislation was “considered a once-in-a-generation bill,” but if the White House doesn’t respect the parameters of the law, then they’ll be “responsible for it waiting for another generation” to pass something else.

Republicans would need Democratic support to pass the resolution.

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