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Sandy Hook Promise Celebrates Major Victory in Expansion of Firearm Background Check System

Announcement of the final rule, made possible by The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), represents the most significant expansion of background checks since the Sandy Hook tragedy and will keep communities safe by preventing thousands of gun sales to prohibited purchasers. 

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Today the Biden administration announced the Department of Justice’s final rule that strongly narrows the private gun sale loophole. The move represents the largest step toward expanding the background checks system since the passage of the Brady Act more than 30 years ago, and a major victory for Sandy Hook Promise, the foremost advocate for bipartisan laws to expand background checks since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. 

“After my sweet little Daniel was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, I joined together with other surviving families in 2013 to channel my grief into advocating for a background checks bill that ultimately did not pass the Senate,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. “We could have given up after that loss. But instead, we committed to work with lawmakers to find common ground on policies that can protect children and communities.”  

“While today’s victory can never take away the pain of having my youngest son taken from our family, it represents the power of our collective voices when we come together to keep kids safe,” Barden added. “We are energized to keep up the fight and will work day in and day out to ensure that this isn’t the last action we see on expanding background checks.” 

Supported by a vast majority of Americans regardless of political affiliation, background checks are one of the most effective means of protecting our communities by helping to keep guns from getting into the hands of individuals who may harm themselves or others. Until now, federal law only required background checks when the gun seller is a licensed dealer – excluding unlicensed private sellers, such as those who make sales at gun shows or via the internet. With the new “engaged in the business” rule, private sellers who were exploiting this dangerous loophole to frequently deal firearms will now be required to obtain a federal firearm license and conduct background checks ahead of sales.  

The implementation of the rule will require thousands more individuals making a large number of private firearm sales to be federally licensed, which will help prevent gun violence. For example, in 2019, in Midland-Odessa, TX, a shooter failed a background check at a licensed dealer, but then went on to purchase his weapons online. This resulted in the deaths of seven people and 25 injured. If the shooter had not been able to acquire a firearm online, without a background check, lives would have been saved and another community spared from gun violence. 

Since its founding in 2013, Sandy Hook Promise has been advancing sensible bipartisan policy solutions that save lives in schools, homes, and communities. The organization has championed the cause to expand background checks as the only nonpartisan organization advancing safe firearm access in partnership with Republicans and Democrats. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, Sandy Hook Promise co-founders channeled their grief and outrage into working to pass federal background checks legislation. While that early effort failed, the organization has not stopped advocating for change. Sandy Hook Promise worked closely with lawmakers to help craft the historic Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) in 2022, including advocating for the inclusion of the “engaged in the business” rule announced today. Sandy Hook Promise also works at the state and federal levels to create and pass other research-backed policies that can protect youth and prevent gun violence, including temporary transfer measures and secure storage laws. 

“Despite more than ten years of setbacks and frustrations, we will never give up on advocating for proven solutions that can keep our children safe and prevent future tragedies like the one that took my beautiful butterfly, Dylan, from my family and that unspeakable heartbreak that too many other families and communities have experienced,” said Nicole Hockley, co-founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise, and mother of Dylan who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. “We sincerely thank the more than 11,000 supporters, including the teachers, parents, students, gun violence survivors, and other concerned community members, who spoke out in support of this critical rule. Their support has been a fountain of hope and we share this victory with them.” 

While today’s rule is a significant step forward, there is much more we can do to keep youth and communities safe. Sandy Hook Promise urges lawmakers to continue prioritizing bipartisan efforts to expand background checks, including by supporting the Sandy Hook Promise-endorsed Background Check Expansion Act. In addition, Sandy Hook Promise is calling on Congress to provide funding and support for the bipartisan National Instant Criminal Background Check System, as well as close the Charleston loophole.  

To celebrate this major victory for sensible gun safety and support more efforts to keep kids safe, make The Promise to “protect our children”

** Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley are available for media interviews to discuss this historic development and what’s next in their work to keep kids and communities safe. For inquiries, please reach out to [email protected]. ** 


The Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund (SHPAF) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization committed to protecting all children from gun violence in schools, homes, and communities. The SHP Action Fund advances a holistic policy platform that promotes gun safety, youth mental health, and violence prevention education. The organization works at the state and federal level to pass nonpartisan legislation through inclusive partnerships, diverse grassroots education, and community mobilization. It is part of Sandy Hook Promise, founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

Media Contact: 

Aimee Thunberg | [email protected] | 646-761-5579