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Biden looks to stem ‘ghost guns,’ unveils other steps to curb gun violence ‘epidemic’

  • April 08, 2021

President Joe Biden unveiled his first major steps to address gun violence on Thursday, directing his administration to tighten restrictions on so-called ghost guns, or untraceable weapons that can be constructed from parts purchased online.  

The president also announced his nomination of David Chipman as the director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  Chipman is an ATF veteran who currently serves as an adviser for the gun control advocacy group named for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who survived a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, as a congresswoman.

“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic,” Biden said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden, calling it an “international embarrassment.” 

“The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation.” 

kind of stabilizing braces for pistols used in last month’s Boulder, Colorado, shooting that left 10 people dead.

The Justice Department will propose a rule within 60 days that makes clear a device marketed as a stabilizing brace, which effectively allows a pistol to operate as a short-barreled rifle, is subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act. 

Other actions include directing five federal agencies to make changes to 26 different programs to direct vital support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible. The president has already proposed a $5 billion investment in community violence intervention programs over eight years under his infrastructure package. 

More:Gun control legislation or executive orders? Here’s what President Biden is considering

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As a candidate, Biden pledged to reinstate an assault weapons ban, create a voluntary gun buyback program and send a bill to Congress to repeal liability protections for gun manufacturers and close background check loopholes on his first day in office. 

The president instead focused much of his attention in his first days in office on passing his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and, more recently, his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, frustrating some anti-gun violence groups who expected the administration to move faster.

A recent poll ABC News/Ipsos poll found a majority of Americans (57%) disapproved of the way Biden has handled gun violence as president among both Democrats and Republicans. 

The president told reporters at his first press conference that addressing gun violence was a “matter of timing,” even though he said he didn’t “need to wait another minute” to address gun violence just days before, following the Boulder shooting.

President Joe Biden speaks during an event on gun control in the Rose Garden at the White House April 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden signed executive orders to prevent gun violence and announced his pick of David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The White House has urged Congress to pass gun safety legislation, pointing to two bills passed in the House last month. One bill would expand background checks on individuals seeking to purchase or transfer firearms, while the other would close the so-called Charleston loophole, which allows gun sales to proceed without a completed background check if three business days have passed. The bills face uphill battles in an evenly divided Senate.

Violence Against Women Act, landmark legislation that Biden championed as a senator that enshrined federal protections and support for domestic violence survivors.

“I know it’s painful and frustrating that we haven’t made the progress that we’d hoped for,” Biden said. “No matter how long it takes. We’re going to get these passed. We’re not going to give up.” 

More:‘We have to act’: Biden calls on Congress to move fast on background checks, assault weapon ban after Boulder shooting

More:Boulder grocery store rampage follows spike in mass shootings during 2020

The president also directed the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” legislation for states that want to enact such laws that enable courts to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms if they may hurt themselves or others. Biden will also sign an order directing the Justice Department to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking, which the ATF has not done since 2000. 

The ATF has been chronically devoid of permanent leadership due to the divisive nature of gun rights. 

B. Todd Jones, a former U.S. attorney in Minnesota, announced his resignation less than two years after a contentious Senate confirmation vote. In 2013, Jones became the first permanent director for the agency in seven years. 

As Democrats press for national gun control, GOP states move to expand firearm access

John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said the actions “will start to address the epidemic of gun violence that has raged throughout the pandemic, and begin to make good on President Biden’s promise to be the strongest gun safety president in history.”

Feinblatt said Biden’s decision to treat ghost guns “like the deadly weapons they are will undoubtedly save countless lives – as will the critical funding provided to groups that focus on city gun violence.”

The National Rifle Association, the largest gun rights lobby group in the U.S., called the measures “extreme” and said it was “ready to fight.”

Giffords, who is married to Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., said the actions delivered on Biden’s promise to take action in his first 100 days in office.

“Days like today are why we fought so hard to bring a gun safety champion to the White House. These executive actions help address a crisis that devastates communities across the country on a daily basis. Today we have hope that a brighter future is in store,” she said.

Giffords also praised the White House for Chipman’s nomination.

“As a responsible gun owner, decorated law enforcement professional, and gun safety expert, David is the perfect choice for ATF director,” she added.

Contributing: Kevin Johnson, Nicholas Penzenstadler

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