AG Barr meets with senators about proposal to expand background checks

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

What You Need to Know: William Barr

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Attorney General William Barr met with members of Congress this week to discuss expanding background checks on gun purchases for "all advertised commercial sales."

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The memo outlining possible changes to the way background checks would be conducted included the idea of revising who could perform the checks in addition to assuring gun owners that there would not be a federal registry of firearms.

Barr, along with White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, met with GOP senators Tuesday and Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

Included in the memo – a copy of which was obtained by ABC News – was an outline of proposed changes to the way background checks would be carried out.

The memo included these proposals:

  • A background check requirement would be extended to all advertised commercial sales, including sales at gun shows.
  • Background checks would be conducted either through an FFL (Federal Firearms License) or through a newly created class of licensed transfer agents.
  • Licensed transfer agents would not carry firearm inventory but would be authorized by ATF to initiate background checks for private sales through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) including both (a) verifying the buyer's identity and (b) communication with NICS.
  • A commercial seller, who is not a licensed dealer and does not want an FFL or transfer agent to retain a Form 4473 (identifying the buyer), could go to an FFL or transfer agent to conduct a background check before completing transfer and generate two forms:

Bill of Sale/Chain of Title. This form would record details of the sale including the identities of the buyer and seller and would be the seller's responsibility.

New form/certification. This form would be a certification from the FFL or transfer agent memorializing a successful background check, including the serial number, date and confirmation code. (It could also include the seller's identity).

  • Background checks would be conducted based on the same information as Form 4473.
  • If a denial occurs, a referral would be made to law enforcement.
  • If the transaction proceeds, the New Form (certification) would be generated and sent to the seller. The FFL or transfer agent would not retain any identifying information about the buyer. Therefore, the only documentation reflecting the identity of the buyer would be the Bill of Sale in the custody of the seller.
  • Sellers could retain these records on their own, but many would be expected to choose voluntarily to have the FFL or transfer agent store the records.
  • The record-keeping requirements would be enforced via civil penalties. Also, if a firearm were used in a crime, the seller would enjoy the same civil immunity as FFLs if he could produce the forms from his own records or from those retained by the FFL or transfer agent.

While Barr and Ueland were sharing the proposals with some senators, the White House has been clear in saying that the memo did not come from President Donald Trump.

"That is not a White House document, and any suggestion to contrary is completely false," White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told ABC News on Tuesday.

Ueland, did not say the document was created at the White House but did say, “The president asked us to engage with the Hill. We’ve been doing that consistently, repeatedly for weeks. We’ve continued today and throughout the week to members on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol ... throughout these public policy challenges to see whether or not there’s a path forward on a legislative package in relation to mass gun violence."

According to some senators, an expanded background check is something being considered. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said background checks remained under discussion, according to the AP.

Some senators have been open to talking about expanding background checks, but are averse to the idea of a gun registry.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, told ABC that "The idea of a registry really bothers me. We do have to keep the guns out of the hands of people should not have them, like felons. …The question I have, though, is what happens if another administration comes in and we want to make sure there are safeguards against that, because there's only one step between a registry and confiscation."

Perdue did say he was open to looking at how background checks are conducted.

Barr and Ueland were seen meeting with GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

While some have read the memo and discussed it with Barr, other senators are saying it is a waste of time until and unless Trump gets on board.

"You don't need to worry about what's floating around," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Politico. "We aren't going to do anything that the president isn't going to sign anyway."

The National Rifle Association has denounced an expansion on background checks as was laid out in the memo, saying instead the focus of new legislation should be on mental health.

“This missive is a non-starter with the NRA and our 5 million members because it burdens law-abiding gun owners while ignoring what actually matters: fixing the broken mental health system and the prosecution of violent criminals," the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Jason Ouimet told ABC.