President Joe Biden unveiled the first executive actions his administration will take to address gun violence on Thursday, including new rules that tackle “ghost guns” and modified pistols, and model “red flag” legislation that states could use as a template. He also pressured Congress to take broader actions on gun control, like strengthening background checks and banning assault weapons.
Biden spoke from the White House Rose Garden with Vice-President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland by his side, emphasizing that the government must act with urgency in the wake of recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado.
“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and it’s an international embarrassment,” Biden said.
Biden made his remarks in front of a small crowd full of gun-control activists and people who have been impacted by gun violence, like former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime during the Parkland school shooting.
The president said that he has asked Garland to make gun violence a priority for the Justice Department, and that the attorney general advised him on measures that Biden could personally take on the issue.
Biden said that he wants to rein in untraceable guns, known as “ghost guns,” that can be manufactured through kits, calling for them to be “treated as firearms under the Gun Control Act.”
He also singled out pistols that are modified with stabilizing braces, like the kind used in the recent mass shooting in Boulder that left ten people dead.
“These modifications to firearms that make them more lethal should be subject to the National Firearms Act. The National Firearms Act requires that a potential owner pay 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,” Biden said.
The Justice Department will issue proposed rules to address these two kinds of weapons and also release model legislation for a “red-flag law” that will make it easier for states to start passing their own versions. Red-flag laws allow family members or police to petition a court to bar certain individuals from possessing firearms due to concerns they might harm themselves or someone else.
Biden also announced that he would be nominating David Chipman to be the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Chipman previously worked at the agency for 25 years and is now an adviser with Giffords, a gun-control organization.
Biden emphasized that Congress needs to play a stronger role in helping to end gun violence.
“They’ve offered plenty of thoughts of prayers, members of Congress. But they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence,” Biden said. “Enough prayers. Time for some action.”
Biden called on Congress to pass “three House-passed bills” that would close several loopholes that allow gun purchasers to bypass background checks, such as the gun-show loophole and the Charleston loophole.
He also said Congress should take steps toward banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and eliminating gun manufacturers’ immunity from being sued.
“There’s no reason someone needs a weapon of war with 100 rounds, 100 bullets that can be fired from that weapon. Nobody needs that,” Biden said.
The president acknowledged that his moves will receive pushback from gun-rights advocates, but said that claims that he’s infringing on Second Amendment rights are “phony arguments.”
“It took five years to get the Brady Bill passed and it took even more years to work to pass the assault weapons ban, and it saved lives. No matter how long it takes, we’re gonna get these passed. We’re not gonna give up,” Biden said.