Biden announces gun control actions after spate of mass shootings in US

Biden announces gun control actions after spate of mass shootings in US

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US President Joe Biden, in his first gun control measures since taking office, on Thursday announced half a dozen executive actions aimed at tackling a proliferation of gun violence across the country which he called an “epidemic and international embarrassment”.
“This is actually a public health crisis,” Biden said during remarks at the White House, where he was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland. Saluting the families of the victims and activists of gun violence, he assured them: “We are absolutely determined to make changes.”

Biden’s announcement on Thursday comes from a pledge he made last month to take what he called immediate “common sense” measures to tackle gun violence, after a series of gunfire mass has drawn renewed attention to the issue.

His announcement came after another shooting, this one in South Carolina on Wednesday, in which five people were killed.

Biden pointed out the scale of the problem: Between the mass killings at Atlanta-area massage companies and the Colorado grocery store shooting last month, there were more than 850 other shootings that killed people. 250 and 500 injured in the United States, he said.

But Thursday’s announcement highlights the limits of Biden’s executive power to act on guns. His ordinances tighten regulations on homemade weapons and provide more resources for gun violence prevention, but fall far short of the broad gun control agenda Biden laid out during the election campaign.

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Indeed, Biden once again urged Congress to act, calling on the Senate to take the steps the House has adopted to address the deficiencies in the background check. He also said Congress should pass the Violence Against Women Act, eliminate legal exemptions for gun manufacturers, and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“This is not a partisan issue among the American people,” Biden insisted.

While Biden has claimed he “is ready to work with anyone to make it happen,” gun control measures face slim prospects in an equally divided Senate, where Republicans remain almost unified against most of the proposals.

Stricter rules, more community funding

Biden tightens regulations for buyers of “ghost guns” – homemade firearms are typically assembled from parts and machined with a metal-cutting machine, and often lack serial numbers to track them down. It is legal to build a firearm in a home or workshop and there is no federal requirement for a background check.

The Justice Department will issue a proposed rule requiring these gun kits to be treated as firearms under the Gun Control Act, which would require the parts to be made with numbers standard and that buyers receive background checks.

Months before Biden’s election, the federal government had already worked on a draft rule that would change the definition of a firearm to include lower receivers, the essential part of a semi-automatic rifle, in an effort to fight against the proliferation of phantom weapons. and to avoid losing legal battles on the issue.

The process was underway in the final months of the Trump administration, according to four people familiar with the matter. Justice Department officials and officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had been working on wording for a proposed rule since at least the summer of 2020, officials said.

Biden was accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland during the announcement. (Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press)

A second proposed rule, expected within 60 days, will tighten regulations on pistol stabilizer devices, like the one used during the mass shooting at a Boulder, Colo., Grocery store last month that left 10 people dead. The rule will designate pistols used with stabilizer devices like short barrel rifles, which require a federal license and are subject to a more extensive application process and a fee of US $ 200.

The ministry is also issuing 60-day model legislation that aims to make it easier for states to pass their own “red flag” laws that allow people to ask a court to let police confiscate guns. to a person considered to be a danger to themselves. or others.

The Justice Department will also begin providing more data on gun trafficking, starting with a new comprehensive report on the issue. The administration says this has not been done for more than two decades.

The Biden administration will also invest in community violence intervention programs, which aim to reduce gun violence in urban communities, in five federal agencies.

The president argued that gun violence was also a massive economic pressure, citing the costs of hospital visits, legal fees, and the cost of holding people in jail and therapy for victims and others. The majority of gun deaths are due to suicides.

Former agent at the head of ATF

Biden also appoints David Chipman, a former federal agent and adviser to gun control group Giffords, as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Giffords was co-founded by former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a 2011 shooting in Tuscon, Ariz. That left six people dead. She was in the audience during Thursday’s announcement.

The ATF is currently headed by an interim director, Regina Lombardo. Proponents of gun control have emphasized the importance of this position in gun law enforcement, and Chipman is sure to win praise from this group.

David Chipman, senior policy adviser at the Giffords Law Center, speaks at a 2019 House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons. Chipman is Biden’s choice to head the Office of Alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives. (Andrew Harnik / The Associated Press)

During his tenure as Senior Policy Advisor at Giffords, he devoted considerable effort to promoting stricter regulation and enforcement of phantom weapons, changes to the background check system and measures to reduce trafficking. illegal firearms.

Chipman spent 25 years as an agent at the ATF, where he worked to shut down a smuggling ring that was sending illegal guns from Virginia to New York City, and was part of the team. ATF SWAT. Chipman also owns a gun.

He is an explosives expert and was part of the team involved in the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing and the first World Trade Center bombing. He was also involved in an investigation into a series of bombings against churches in Alabama in the 1990s. He retired from the ATF in 2012.

The White House fact sheet says Chipman has worked “to advance common sense gun safety laws.”

Defenders applaud the movements

During his campaign, Biden vowed to prioritize new gun control measures as president, including the enactment of universal legislation on background checks and banning the sale in line of firearms as well as the manufacture and sale of high capacity assault weapons and magazines.

But gun control advocates said that while they were encouraged by signs from the White House that they were taking the issue seriously, they were disappointed by the lack of swift action.

However, with the announcement of the new measures, supporters hailed Biden’s first steps in tackling gun violence.

“Each of these executive actions will begin to address the epidemic of gun violence that has raged throughout the pandemic and deliver on President Biden’s pledge to be the strongest president in human security history. firearms, ”said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown. for gun safety.

Feinblatt in particular hailed the move to regulate phantom weapons, which he said “will undoubtedly save countless lives,” and hailed Chipman as an “invaluable resource” in the fight against illicit trafficking in weapons. fire.

He also said the group looks forward to continuing to work with the Biden administration on further gun control measures, but it’s unclear what next steps the White House, or lawmakers on Capitol Hill, may take. .

Biden himself expressed his uncertainty late last month when asked if he had the political capital to pass new gun control proposals, telling reporters: “I haven’t yet account. “

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