President Joe Biden announces new gun control reforms, calling gun violence a ‘public health crisis’
The president directed the Justice Department to recommend legislative changes that would modernize the nation’s current gun laws and give lawmakers and communities tools to combat gun violence
President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday announced several executive actions the White House is taking to confront gun violence in America, a problem the president called a “public health crisis.”
The president directed the Department of Justice to recommend legislative changes that would modernize the nation’s current gun laws and give lawmakers and communities tools to combat the “epidemic” of American gun violence.
Biden also announced his nomination for a new permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — the federal agency that would shoulder many policy initiatives Biden discussed.
“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment or phony arguments suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights at stake in what we’re talking about,” Biden said at the beginning of his address in the White House Rose Garden Thursday. “But no amendment, no amendment, to the Constitution is absolute.”
Here’s what the president and the attorney general announced Thursday.
‘Ghost guns’ regulation gap
Biden said the first step is to better regulate “ghost guns” — or firearms usually assembled from parts, often without serial numbers, The Associated Press reported — which he said can’t be traced from crime scenes and don’t require background checks.
- “I want to see these kits treated as firearms under the gun control law, which is going to require that the seller and manufacturers make the key parts with serial numbers and run background checks on the buyers,” Biden said of kits used to make “ghost guns.”
- Garland said within 30 days, the ATF “will issue a proposed rule to plug that gap and to enable law enforcement to trace crime guns and they keep guns from being sold to those who cannot lawfully possess them.”
New gun trafficking report
Biden asked the Justice Departed to issue a “new, annual report” that he said “will better help policymakers address firearms trafficking as it is today.” The report would modernize a decades-old report that had been issued by the ATF.
- The president called the report an “important tool ... to stop firearms from being illegally diverted into dangerous hands.”
- Garland said it has been more than 20 years since the “ATF undertook a gun trafficking study” and that “no such study has been conducted since that time.”
- “Accordingly, I have directed ATF to begin work on an updated study of criminal gun trafficking. One that will take into account the fact that modern guns are not simply cast or forged anymore, but can also be made of plastic, printed on a 3D printer or sold in self-assembly kits,” Garland said.
- “We expect that the lessons from this study will help agents, prosecutors and policymakers tackle modern criminal gun trafficking enterprises,” the attorney general added.
Pistols with stabilizing braces
The attorney general also announced the ATF will propose a new rule clarifying “when a device marketed as a stabilizing device, effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle.”
- “We want to treat pistols modified with stabilizing braces with the seriousness they deserve,” Biden said of the ATF’s forthcoming proposal, which would make stabilized pistols — some which function nearly like an assault rifle — “subject to the National Firearms Act.”
- “The National Firearms Act requires that a potential owner paid (a) $200 fee and submit their name and other identifying information to the Justice Department, just as they would if they went out and purchased a silencer for a gun,” Bided added.
‘Red flag law’ model for states
In 60 days, the administration will also publish a model law that states can use to make it easier to adopt “extreme risk protection order laws” — or more commonly known as “red flag laws.”
- “These laws allow police or family members to petition a court in their jurisdiction, and say, ‘I want you to temporarily remove from the following people, any firearm they may possess because they’re a danger, in a crisis,’” Biden said, explaining red flag laws.
- “Within 60 days, the Justice Department will publish model legislation that will make it easier for states that want to craft laws permitting such emergency risk orders to do so,” said Garland.
Community Violence Interventions program
Garland said the Biden administration will “empower our communities to combat and prevent gun violence” and that the Justice Department is going to make “$1 billion in funding” available “through over a dozen grant programs that can be used to support evidence-based intervention strategies for reducing gun violence.”
- The initiatives are part of a program the White House called Community Violence Interventions.
- Garland said the grant strategies include, but are not limited to, “violence interrupters and hospital-based violence intervention services.”
- Biden said gun violence costs the country $280 billion annually from “hospital bills, physical therapy, trauma counseling, legal fees, prison costs and the loss of productivity.”
ATF director nomination
Biden also formally nominated David Chipman — a former ATF special agent and gun control advocate — to be the permanent director of the bureau, The Washington Post reported. Chipman will need Senate confirmation before coming ATF’s new director, according to the Post.
David Chipman has spent his career serving the public, combating violent crime, and striving to make our nation and our communities safer. As a responsible gun owner, decorated law enforcement professional, and gun safety expert, David is the perfect choice for ATF director. https://t.co/NUcVwwvDP1— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) April 8, 2021
- During his 25-year career with ATF, Chipman investigated the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, served on the ATF’s special tactics team and was promoted to lead the the bureau’s Firearms Program, the Post reported.
- Chipman is currently a senior policy adviser for Giffords — a gun control nonprofit organization led by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in head during a mass shooting in 2011.
- “Vice President (Kamala) Harris and I believe he’s the right person at this moment for this important agency,” the president said of Chipman.
The president also called on Congress to enact a pair of gun control bills that have already passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The two bills, which would increase background checks on firearms purchases, could struggle to find traction in the evenly divided Senate.