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  • Guns taken off New York City streets during a gun buyback program. (Photo: NYPD)

    The sale of unlicensed firearms online and at gun shows — one of the biggest sources of illegal guns on the street — is the latest front in a legal battle to curb violent crime.

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is proposing a rule that would ensure gun purchasers are subject to background checks.

    The goal is to cut illegal gun trafficking under the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

    “Gun traffickers and criminals have exploited loopholes in our laws to illegally obtain firearms and flood communities in states like New York with deadly weapons,” said New York State Attorney General Letitia James, in a release.

    In a separate development, today (Dec. 9), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit allowed a most of the provisions of the  Concealed Carry Improvement Act (CCIA) to remain in effect pending the conclusion of lower court proceedings.  

    New York Attorney Letitia James is leading a coalition of Attorneys General to protect a consumer watchdog.

    New York Attorney Letitia James is leading a coalition of Attorneys General to toughen gun laws.

    For the time being, New York state laws will remain on the books that require “good moral character” to get a gun permit. Requirements for an in-person interview, character references and 16 hours of training are also still in effect.

    In addition, the decision upholds the ban on concealed carry in all sensitive places with the exception of places of worship. All private property owners, including owners of places of worship, can prohibit firearms on their property by posting signs.  

    In the battle for the new rule, James and Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell are leading a coalition of 21 state attorneys general in support of the new rule.

    “The ATF’s rule is a common sense way to address this problem, and will help ensure more firearm sales are subject to background checks, thereby cutting off sources of weapons for gun traffickers,” James said. 

    The new rule will clarify  persons“engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms. and require them to get a license and run background checks when selling guns.

    It would close loopholes that allow  unlicensed firearm sales in private, online and at gun shows. 

    Unlicensed gun sales make it easier for people get firearms who are barred from buying them, endangering communities and fueling gun violence, according to the group. 

    Gun shows in states without universal background checks are a significant source of unlicensed guns that turn up in street crimes in New York and other states with more restrictive laws. 

    An estimated  75 percent of the guns trafficked across state lines and used in crimes originated from states without background check laws. In New York City alone, over 90 percent of the guns recovered from crimes originated from out of state.

    The ATF’s proposed rule will crack down on unlicensed gun sellers and cut the number of guns sold without a background check.

    It will also help local and state law enforcement to track gun sales and give them more tools to effectively inspect gun dealers, trace guns used in crimes, prosecute gun charges and help keep the communities they serve safer.

    James and other state attorneys general have been active on several fronts to curb illegal guns. 

    New York State  sued a gun accessory manufacturer that aided the Buffalo mass shooter, who killed 10 African-American citizens at a local grocery store. The shooter, 19-year-old white gunman, Payton Gendron, was sentenced to life in prison in February. 

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    Gendron was dressed in tactical gear when he fired at shoppers n the grocery store parking lot. He streamed the attack on the social media platform and said he was specifically targeting blacks. New York state has also been conducting gun buyback program that yielded more than 3,000 guns.

    In March it broke up a  firearm and drug trafficking operation that illegally sold guns, including ghost guns and assault weapons, in New York City. Nineteen firearms, including 12 so-called “ghost guns” were recovered. In June last year, James sued 10 national gun distributors for bringing ghost gun parts into New York.

    Joining  James in support of the ATF’s proposed rule are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.