President Joe Biden plans to announce on Thursday an effort to limit so-called ghost guns – guns sold without a serial number or other identifying information – and to designate a figure from a large gun control group as the director of the federal agency that regulates firearms.
Through this, Biden will make his first foray into gun violence control efforts since taking office.
The executive’s actions follow two recent massacres, and some activists from anti-violence groups have expressed disappointment with the administration for putting gun regulation behind other priorities.
One of the priorities is the Coronavirus Relief Bill (COVID-19)Biden recently announced a $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal.
The administration’s decisions, which Biden plans to announce at an event with Attorney General Merrick Garland, are relatively limited in scope but mark a dramatic departure from the Trump administration.
The administration has consistently referred to the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups and opposed moves to expand gun regulation.
A senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters on Wednesday noted that the measures were “a first round of actions the administration is taking to tackle gun violence” and that further action may come later.
The official spoke on condition that they were not identified by name.
Biden’s most concrete proposals will be new federal rules for ghost weapons, made from kits that buyers can assemble into weapons with relative ease and a few basic tools.
The kits are not classified as firearms which means that a person can purchase them without a background check and they can be sold without the required identification stamps for the firearms.
Sales of these kits have grown rapidly in recent years and ghost weapons are increasingly present at crime scenes.
California law enforcement officials have estimated that about three in ten firearms recovered from crimes in the state are ghost guns.
In February, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a lawsuit against a Nevada-based vendor of these kits, claiming that “untraceable phantom weapons are the emerging weapon of choice for criminals” in Los Angeles. Angeles and other major cities.
According to Biden’s plan, the Justice Department will propose a new rule within 30 days that would require a background check for ghost weapon purchases, according to the senior administration official.
The rule will likely involve reclassifying the kits as firearms under federal law.
Since the proposal will require new federal regulations, however, it will have to go through a long public comment period before it can take full effect, meaning the new restrictions will likely not limit sales until the end of this year. as soon as possible.
The administration will also step up funding efforts to reduce urban gun violence, which has surged in several cities over the past year.
Biden has proposed $ 5 billion over the next eight years for “community violence interventions,” a term that covers a range of programs designed to deter violence using tools other than jail time.
These measures may include conflict intervention, connecting people with social service agencies, and working with gunshot victims while they are hospitalized in the hope of avoiding retaliatory attacks.
Such programs have had a significant impact on reducing homicides where they were tried, White House officials say.
Until Congress responds to the $ 5 billion request, the administration will order more than two dozen federal agencies to examine existing accounts to find money to support such programs.
The administration’s demarches have garnered praise from gun security groups.
The actions “will begin to deliver on President Biden’s promise to be the strongest gun safety president in history,” John Feinblatt, chief of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement.
“In particular, phantom weapons make it easy for anyone, anywhere, to obtain an untraceable firearm, and the decision of the Biden administration to treat them like the deadly weapons they are will save them without no doubt countless lives, ”he added.
Biden will also appoint David Chipman as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the federal agency that regulates firearms and gun sales.
Chipman, who spent roughly two decades as an ATF agent, is a senior political adviser to the Giffords advocacy group, put in place by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she suffered a serious gunshot wound. at an event with voters.
“There is no one better to lead ATF right now,” the senior administration official said, citing Chipman’s experience with the agency.
Since 2006, when Congress ordered the ATF leader to be subject to Senate confirmation, the NRA and other gun rights groups have consistently worked to block candidates.
The agency’s last Senate-confirmed head, B. Todd Jones, who was appointed by President Obama, resigned in 2015, and acting directors have run the agency ever since, limiting its ability to pursue new programs. .
Chipman’s extensive contacts with groups advocating for greater gun regulation may allay some of the complaints that the administration has been slow to act on gun issues.
These complaints escalated after Biden’s press conference at the end of last month, in which he said: “Presidents who are successful, better than me, have succeeded, in large part, because they know how. time what they do – order, decide and prioritize what needs to be done. “
Asked about gun control, immigration and other issues, Biden said “the most pressing issue” was the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.
“The other issues we’re talking about, from immigration to guns and the other things you mentioned, are long term issues.
“They’ve been around for a long time,” he said.
Throughout his career, Biden has been active in gun control efforts, often boasting of his role in winning the NRA in legislative battles under the Clinton administration when he was a senator.
As Obama’s vice president, he played a role in helping to craft gun control proposals, most of which stuck on Capitol Hill.
But since taking office as president, he has focused heavily on other issues.
Although the House passed two bills last month to address shortcomings in the federal background check program, opposition in the Senate has blocked action.
The Senate could pass a more limited bill later this spring that would fill a loophole – requiring background checks for guns sold at gun shows – but even that faces a difficult legislative path. (dpa / NAN)
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