With gun control measures stalled in Congress, Biden announces actions against gun violence.


President Biden, calling gun violence in the United States “an international embarrassment,” took a set of initial steps on Thursday to address the problem, starting with a crackdown on the proliferation of so-called ghost guns, or firearms assembled from kits.

Acknowledging that more aggressive actions like banning assault weapons and closing background check loopholes would have to wait for action from Congress, he said it was nonetheless vital to do what he could on his own to confront what he called an epidemic of shootings that are killing roughly 100 Americans a day.

“We’ve got a long way to go — it seems like we always have a long way to go,” Mr. Biden said during an appearance in the Rose Garden, weeks after two mass shootings.

The most substantive of the steps was directing the Justice Department to curb the spread of ghost guns. Kits for these guns can be bought without background checks and allow a gun to be assembled from pieces with no serial numbers.

Mr. Biden said he wanted the department to issue a regulation within a month to require that the components in the kits have serial numbers that would allow them to be traced and that the weapons be legally classified as firearms, with the buyers subjected to background checks.

“I want to see these kits treated as firearms under the gun control act,” Mr. Biden said.

Ghost guns, experts said, have become particularly appealing to criminal organizations and right wing extremists who want untraceable firearms that do not require any background checks. They are often tied to shootings in states like California, which have instituted strict gun laws.

The president on Thursday outlined several other actions he was taking on his own. He said he would require that when a device known as a stabilizing brace effectively transforms a pistol into a short-barrel rifle, that weapon would be subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act. That would subject those guns to extra layers of regulation required to own more serious firearms or silencers, including fingerprinting, a background check and a regular renewal of a license.

The gunman in the Boulder, Colo., shooting last month used a pistol with an arm brace, making it more stable and accurate, the president said.

Mr. Biden said the Justice Department would also publish model “red flag” legislation for states. The measure would allow police officers and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from people who may present a danger to themselves or others.

While the president cannot pass national red flag legislation without Congress, officials said the goal of the guidance was to make it easier for states that want to adopt it to do so now.

“Red flag laws can stop mass shooters before they can act out their violent plans,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he wanted to see a national law.

Outside of mass shootings, gun violence remains the leading cause of death for Black men between the ages of 15 and 34, Mr. Biden said in his remarks, noting that additional funding he has proposed for community violence programs can save lives.

The initiatives announced Thursday do not match in scope his commitment to the issue over the course of his career, particularly his time as a senator. In 1993, Mr. Biden played a key role in the passage of the landmark Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. A year later, he helped authorize a 10-year ban on assault weapons.

Mr. Biden acknowledged there is only so much he can do without Congress. “This is just a start,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

The House passed two gun control bills last month, but they are languishing in the Senate in the face of the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passing most legislation, which requires the support of at least 10 Republicans. Mr. Biden called on the Senate to take action.

Mr. Biden also announced his nomination of David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bureau has not had a permanent director since 2015.

While Mr. Chipman’s selection came as welcome news to gun control groups, few nominees put forward by Mr. Biden have faced steeper odds of confirmation in the Senate. Still, his allies think he may be able to win narrow approval given the anguish over recent shootings.

In 2006, lawmakers allied with the National Rifle Association enacted a provision making the position of A.T.F. director, which had previously been a political appointment, subject to Senate confirmation. As a result, only one director, Obama nominee B. Todd Jones, has been confirmed over the last 15 years.



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