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Tennessee joins 21-state coalition in lawsuit against unconstitutional ATF rule
May 2, 2024, 4:25 p.m.

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti joined a coalition of 21 states on Wednesday in a lawsuit opposing a new rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that would prevent law-abiding Americans from privately selling firearms.

“The epidemic of violent crime means every level of government needs to work together to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, but the new ATF rule stretches too far and threatens to make federal felons out of countless everyday citizens,” Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said. “The regulatory burden this rule imposes on regular people who occasionally sell or trade a firearm to a family member or close friend is not commensurate with the agency’s statutory authority or consistent with the Constitution.”

The new rule reinterprets the definitions of “engaged in the business of dealing [in firearms]” “predominately for profit,” thus now requiring many more individuals who previously sold firearms on a limited basis to become federally licensed ­­– or risk criminal penalties. As the White House put it, an individual must “become a licensed dealer and run background checks…[for those] dealing firearms at a gun show, online, in [their] home, in the trunk of a car, at a flea market, or anywhere else.”

Under this expansive and unconstitutional rule, hobbyists who sell firearms to family members, or a hunter who trades a firearm with a friend, could be convicted of a felony.

“Until now, those who repetitively purchased and sold firearms as a regular course of business had to become a licensee…This rule would put innocent firearm sales between law-abiding friends and family members within reach of federal regulation,” the court filing reads. “Such innocent sales between friends and family would constitute a felony if the seller did not in fact obtain a federal firearms license and perform a background check.”

The attorneys general argue that the rule is unconstitutional because it is vague, violates the Second Amendment, and circumvents Congress. Joining Tennessee in the lawsuit includes Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

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