WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is trying to curb “ghost weapons” and make it easier for people to mark family members who should not be allowed to buy firearms with a series of executive actions taken Thursday in the wake of the recent mass shootings.
Efforts to find a two-party agreement on popular arms control measures have erupted, even when lawmakers expressed openness to provisions such as tightening background checks.
The bite’s actions are limited and are likely to continue to be subject to legal opposition from gun rights activists, who view any effort to restrict access as a violation of the Second Amendment.
The changes come in the wake of the shootings in Georgia and Colorado and focus not only on trying to curb mass shootings, but also on reducing other forms of gun violence, such as suicide and domestic violence, Biden said.
“Arms in this country is an epidemic and it̵
Biden also announced that he had nominated David Chipman, an attorney for gun control, to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF.
The White House detailed the planned actions and argued that Biden’s instructions to the Justice Department would slow down access to weapons.
Biden instructed the DOJ to write rules that will reduce the spread of “ghost weapons”, homemade firearms that are often made from parts purchased online and that do not have traceable serial numbers. Biden said he wants kits and parts used to make weapons to be treated as firearms, where the parts have serial numbers and are subject to a background check.
Bide also tried to reduce access to stabilizing harnesses, which can effectively turn a gun into a more lethal rifle without being subject to the same rules that a rifle of the same size would be. Biden said the alleged shooter in Boulder appears to have used one of these devices.
Finally, he asked the DOJ to publish model “red flag” laws that states can use as guidelines. The Red Flag Act allows family members or law enforcement agencies to petition state courts to temporarily block people from obtaining firearms if they pose a danger to themselves or others. Biden said states with such red-flag laws have seen a reduction in the number of suicides.
Biden instructed the DOJ to issue a report on the firearms trade, which has not been done since 2000. He will also announce support for programs aimed at “reducing gun violence in urban communities using tools other than imprisonment”, according to a fact sheet, which is shared by the White House.
The bite has come under pressure from Democrats and gun control activists to intervene immediately to tackle guns in the wake of shootings in Georgia, Colorado and California. House Democrats have passed gun control legislation, but there is not enough support even among Democrats in the Senate to advance this bill.
“The idea is just bizarre to propose some of the things we recommend are unconstitutional,” Biden said.
Weapons control activists have also criticized Biden for not making gun control legislation an early priority for his administration, as he promised to do during his campaign for president.
In a call with journalists Wednesday night, administration officials stressed that Thursday’s actions were only the first step and that Biden would still pursue legislative solutions on firearms.
“This is an initial set of actions to make progress on President Biden’s agenda to reduce gun violence,” an official said. “The administration will pursue legislative and executive action at the same time. You will continue to hear the President urge Congress to pass legislation to reduce firearms.”
Still, it’s unclear how much political capital Biden is willing to invest to get gun control passed on Capitol Hill, where Republicans remain strongly opposed to Democrats’ proposals, especially as he turns his focus toward getting his U.S. job plan passed, and when he continues to deal with the pandemic.
“Every president’s job is to protect the American people, whether Congress acts or not,” Biden said. “I will use all the resources I have available to protect the American people from weapons. But there is much more that Congress can do to help that effort.”
Biden asked Congress to pass legislation through the House to tighten background checks and approved the Violence Against Women Act. He also again called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and removed liability protection for gun manufacturers.
At a news conference late last month, Biden stated that he was focused on other regulatory priorities, such as his infrastructure plan.
“It’s a matter of timing,” he said when asked about gun control legislation. “As you have all noticed, successful presidents, better than me, have been largely successful because they know how to time what they are doing, order it, decide priorities, what to do.