The gun industry has enjoyed a significant upper hand for decades, while mass shooting after mass shooting has failed to yield any meaningful gun control. A Bush-era law rendered the gun industry largely immune to legal challenges, which makes it hard to hold shady dealers accountable for illegal sales. Online sales, now a fixture of the firearms marketplace, are exempt from most laws governing dealers. And enforcement of current laws governing gun dealers is weak.
The meat of the executive action will try to address these problems, notably by requiring all gun sellers to get a license and conduct background checks no matter where they’re selling them. That means online dealers and gun show vendors, many of whom are unlicensed go-tos for people looking to avoid background checks, will have to get approval from federal law enforcement. But the order doesn’t specify how many guns someone will need to sell in order to be considered a dealer.
The orders will also clarify rules about who in a gun business is responsible for reporting stolen or lost guns. In addition, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will get new funding to hire more people for background checks and to centralize illegal gun tracking.
The action will also require background checks for people who buy weapons through trusts or corporations, an increasingly common way to avoid detection when buying serious firearms like machine guns. For instance, former Los Angeles police officer Chris Dorner said he used one such trust to buy silencers and a short-barreled rifle without a background check before going on a multi-day shooting rampage. The White House notes that gun purchases through trust and corporations has risen from fewer than 900 applications to 90,000 applications in 14 years.
It's tinkering around the edges, but necessary tinkering. If the goal is to reduce the number of firearms in the country, well...that's not going to happen. Ever.