Judge Fast-Tracks Review of ATF’s Universal Background Check Rule Amid Legal Challenge by GOA, Texas

A federal judge has expedited the legal proceedings against a new rule by the ATF that mandates universal background checks on private firearm sales. U.S. District Court Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk’s decision on Friday sets the stage for a rapid review of the contentious rule, which has faced strong opposition from gun rights advocates and several states.

The rule, slated to be enforced starting May 20, 2024, would significantly expand the scope of background checks, requiring them even in private transactions that have traditionally been exempt. This includes sales by individuals not classified as being “engaged in the business” of selling firearms. According to reporting by Breitbart News, this change blurs the lines between private sellers and licensed dealers, potentially impacting millions of gun owners across the country who wish to buy or sell a firearm to or from a private seller.

Gun Owners of America (GOA), the Gun Owners Foundation and the State of Texas, along with other states (Louisiana, Mississippi and Utah) and advocacy groups (including the Tennessee Firearms Association and the Virginia Citizens Defense League), have filed a lawsuit arguing that the rule not only exceeds the regulatory powers of the ATF but also infringes on constitutional rights. The plaintiffs claim the rule would unfairly classify ordinary citizens who sell firearms as dealers, subjecting them to rigorous licensing and background checks.

Judge Kacsmaryk has ordered the ATF to respond to the motion for preliminary relief by 5 p.m. tomorrow, May 14, 2024, with the plaintiffs’ reply due by the following day by 5 p.m. as well.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a leading figure in the lawsuit, criticized the Biden administration’s approach.

“Joe Biden is weaponizing the federal bureaucracy to rip up the Constitution and destroy our citizens’ Second Amendment rights,” Paxton said.

Erich Pratt, Senior Vice President of GOA, expressed his organization’s determination to oppose what he described as overreaching regulations that threaten gun owners.

“Criminalizing untold numbers of Americans for simply selling a firearm in a private party transaction is wrong, unconstitutional and must be halted by the courts,” Pratt said.

This lawsuit marks the second major legal challenge by GOA against policies stemming from recent federal gun control efforts, including those initiated by the legislation brokered by Senator John Cornyn in 2022.

The case, titled State of Texas v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, continues in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas Amarillo Division.