April 8, 2021
Calling America’s longstanding addiction to firearms, and the innumerable bodies left in its wake, an “epidemic,” President Biden on Thursday unveiled his administration’s first steps toward curbing gun violence, describing it as an “international embarrassment.”
“It has to stop,” he declared in a Rose Garden address, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
During his remarks, the president also took a swipe at the perpetual inaction of Congress in the wake of each successive incident of gun violence. “They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers,” he said. “But they have passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence.”
“Enough prayers,” Biden continued. “Time for some action.”
“Real people, on both sides of the aisle, want action,” Harris echoed during her portion of the event. “All that is left is the will and the courage to act.”
In particular, the Biden administration has chosen to target “ghost guns” assembled by the user from unregistered parts, rather than purchased as a complete firearm. Under the new executive action, the key component pieces will be printed with serial numbers, and will require a background check as part of the purchasing process.
Biden’s six executive actions also address “stabilizing braces” — one of which was used during last month’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado — which effectively turn handguns into short-barreled rifles, and which are now set to be regulated under the National Firearms Act.
Biden also instructed the Justice Department under Garland to publish boilerplate “red flag” legislation, which states can choose to emulate and adopt in lieu of national red flag laws, which require an act of Congress. Red flag laws are a legal mechanism by which guns can be taken away from those deemed by a court to be unfit to own a firearm.
In addition to the executive actions unveiled Thursday, Biden also announced the nomination of David Chipman, his long anticipated pick to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Chipman, a 25-year veteran of the ATF, also served as an adviser for former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords’s gun control group, where he pushed for tighter firearm regulations. Giffords was on hand during Biden’s speech, enjoying an elbow bump from the president once he finished speaking.
While Biden’s executive orders are a drop in the bucket in comparison to a thicket of legal protections, lobbying power, and good ol’ fashioned American murderphilia, they do mark the first concrete steps this White House has taken to address the proliferation of gun violence in this country — a crisis that costs the nation more than a quarter of a trillion dollars annually, Biden said Thursday. In a nod to the limits of his executive authority, Biden used the occasion to again call on Congress to pass other measures, such as an assault weapons ban or universal background checks.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” he declared during his speech. “It seems like we’ve always got a long way to go.”