- President Joe Biden took his first executive actions to tackle gun violence in the country.
- Biden aims to restrict “ghost guns,” which are self-assembled firearms without serial numbers.
- Biden also called on Congress to pass sweeping gun safety reforms.
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President Joe Biden on Thursday announced his first executive actions amid renewed pressure to address gun violence in the US following a slew of mass shootings.
“We’re taking steps to confront not just the gun crisis, but what is actually a public health crisis,” he said on Thursday about the six executive actions that the White House unveiled Wednesday night. “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and it’s an international embarrassment.”
The announcement comes as gun violence has once again been thrust into the national spotlight after two mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado killed a total of 18 people. Nearly 40,000 people in the United States die from firearm injuries annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Enough prayers,” Biden said. “Time for some action.”
Biden aims to curb the spread of “ghost guns” — firearms without serial numbers that can be self-assembled at home — by calling on the Justice Department to issue a rule within 30 days that would “stop the proliferation of these firearms,” according to a White House statement.
“Anyone, from a criminal to a terrorist, can buy this kit, in as little as 30 minutes put together a weapon,” Biden said Thursday. “I want to see these kits treated as firearms.”
The Justice Department will also establish a rule to designate pistols with a stabilizing brace as a “short-barreled rifle,” which are subject to stricter regulations under the National Firearms Act. The alleged suspect in the Colorado shooting used a pistol with an armbrace that resembled a rifle, according to a law enforcement official.
—President Biden (@POTUS) April 8, 2021
Biden is also giving the Justice Department 60 days to draft model legislation for states to implement “red flag” laws, which would allow family members and friends to petition a court and bar someone from accessing a gun should they be considered a danger to themselves or others.
“We know red flag laws can stop mass shooters before they can act out their violent plans,” Biden said. “It’s time to put these laws on the books and protect even more people.”
Biden was accompanied on Thursday by Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland and announced his nominee, David Chipman, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which hasn’t had a permanent director since 2015. Chipman, a gun-safety advocate, worked at the agency for 25 years and previously served as a senior policy advisor to former Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, a mass shooting survivor and co-founder of a gun-control advocacy group.
The Biden administration additionally plans to invest in community-based intervention strategies to reduce gun violence, as well as improve reporting on gun trafficking by releasing an annual report with new data.
Biden emphasized that Thursday’s executive actions were just a first step, and called on Congress to pass comprehensive reforms to better address gun violence from the federal level.
“Whether Congress acts or not, I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal as president to keep the American people safe from gun violence,” Biden said. “But there’s much more that Congress can do to help that effort.”
On the campaign trail, Biden described gun violence as a “public health epidemic” and vowed to pursue gun safety policies, including banning assault weapons and expanding background checks on gun sales, a commitment he reiterated on Thursday.
The House last month passed legislation that would close loopholes on firearm transactions and broaden background check requirements, though its fate remains uncertain in the evenly-divided Senate. Congressional Republicans, for the most part, have been reluctant to embrace gun-safety measures that they deem to be an infringement of Second Amendment rights.
“They’re phony arguments, suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights at stake,” Biden said Thursday of his executive measures. “Everything that’s being proposed today is totally consistent with the Second Amendment.”