President Obama (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The highly influential Center for American Progress, widely considered the “idea factory” for the Obama administration, has drawn up a blueprint for presidential executive action on gun control that goes beyond media descriptions of the proposal being weighed by the White House.

Since the mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, earlier this month, it’s been widely reported that President Obama is considering circumventing Congress with executive action to tighten federal law on gun sales.

NBC News quoted administration officials saying Obama’s major gun-control proposal would set specific guidelines for who is legally defined as a licensed gun dealer, since all licensed dealers are required to conduct background checks before conducting any sales.

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The proposal, NBC News reported, would set quotas on yearly gun sales for individuals to qualify as legally being “in the business” of selling guns once they sell a certain number and thus become subject to all laws for gun dealers.

The news agency quoted sources revealing the White House is considering setting the quota at 50 or 100 gun sales per year as the threshold to trigger the requirements, although the sources added the administration has not formally settled on a specific number.

The reports of an executive action focus on a federal law that requires anyone “engage[d] in the business” of “dealing in firearms” to obtain a federal firearms license from ATF and become a licensed gun dealer.

Every licensed gun dealer is then mandated to conduct background checks prior to completing each gun sale.

Currently, the federal statute defines those “in the business” of gun sales as follows:

“A person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms, but such term shall not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms.”

Gun-control advocates often express concern about weapons being sold outside of the federal regulations requiring background checks, meaning by unlicensed individuals, mostly online or at gun shows.

With little fanfare and nearly no news media attention, the Center for American Progress, or CAP, last week made specific recommendations for forthcoming presidential executive action in a report titled “Executive Action to Strengthen Background Checks by Addressing High-Volume Gun Sellers.”

CAP reports often become incorporated in Obama administration policy.

In the report, CAP complained of what it sees as “the vagueness in the current regulatory definition” regarding who is in the business of selling guns. It’s a gray area the organization argues “has provided the opportunity for individuals to take advantage of the ambiguity and sell guns at a high volume without becoming licensed and, therefore, without conducting background checks.”

CAP firstly advises that Obama define those who are considered legally “in the business” of dealing in firearms, with stipulations that go well beyond only quotas for the number of firearms sold during a 12-month period.

CAP also wants the executive action to take into consideration and set specifics based on the number of guns offered for sale and the amount of money involved in sales transactions.

Besides those qualifications, CAP also recommends the executive action defining those “in the business” of selling guns also should take into consideration factors such as:

  • Renting tables at gun shows or flea markets
  • Operating a virtual store online
  • Frequency of sales activity
  • Advertising the sale of guns
  • Accepting credit card payments
  • Formal record keeping
  • Paying employees
  • Selling new and unopened guns
  • Selling multiple guns with the same make and model

CAP also advises a new regulation to clarify that “fire sales,” or sales of all guns in the inventory of a licensed dealer who has his or her license revoked, constitute “engaging in the business and require a federal firearms license.”

CAP notes that under “current practice following a 2006 opinion by the U.S. Department of Justice, dealers whose licenses are revoked are permitted to transfer the inventory from their store to their personal collection and continue to sell those guns as private sellers, regardless of the quantity of guns sold in this manner.”

The CAP paper was authored by the group’s vice president on Guns and Crime Policy, Chelsea Parsons, and by its senior vice president, Arkadi Gerney.

Gerney previously worked as special adviser and first deputy criminal justice coordinator for former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, where Gerney managed Bloomberg’s national anti-gun campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

CAP was founded by John Podesta, who directed Obama’s transition into the White House in 2009 and served as White House counselor until earlier this year, when he took on the role of chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The CAP report hails Clinton’s stance on gun control, hinting that a future Clinton administration could also enact an executive action on guns.

At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last Friday, Clinton stated it is “worth considering” whether the U.S. should emulate Australia by instituting a national gun buyback program.

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