White House unveils half-dozen executive actions on gun control

Brittany Shepherd and Christopher Wilson
·4-min read

President Biden unveiled a half-dozen executive actions designed to combat gun violence on Thursday.

The orders look to introduce new regulations on “ghost gun” kits that can be assembled at home. They also call on Congress and states to pass red flag laws that can prevent a firearm purchase by someone deemed a threat to themselves or others; increase funding to community violence intervention programs; and introduce an annual report on firearm tracking from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and it’s an international embarrassment,” said Biden during his remarks in the Rose Garden. He said gun violence is “estimated to cost the nation $280 billion a year” through “hospital bills, physical therapy, trauma counseling, legal fees, prison costs and the loss of productivity.”

U.S. President Joe Biden is flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris as he announces executive actions on gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 8, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
President Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris, in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Biden also formally announced he would be nominating David Chipman to run the ATF. Chipman worked as a special agent for the ATF for 25 years, and if confirmed would be the first permanent director of the organization since 2015. He currently serves as a senior policy adviser for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun safety organization co-founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords.

“David has spent his career serving the public, combating violent crime, and striving to make our nation and our communities safer,” Giffords said in a statement. “As a responsible gun owner, decorated law enforcement professional, and gun safety expert, David is the perfect choice for ATF director.”

Advocates for gun control legislation applauded the White House’s actions. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a leading proponent of new gun laws, called the half-dozen executive actions “modest” and “common sense,” with the ability to save lives.

“In Joe Biden, we finally have a president who is ready to treat gun violence like an epidemic we can solve. Today’s Executive Actions are an important first step toward stemming the tide of violence that ends 100 American lives every single day,” Murphy said in a statement.

Biden’s executive actions come after two high-profile mass shootings in the last month: March 16 at a trio of Atlanta-area spas and March 22 at a Colorado grocery store. Biden has long supported stricter gun laws, but Democrats’ exceedingly narrow congressional majorities mean the White House doesn’t have many options when it comes to new firearm legislation.

Some Democrats are optimistic about passing gun control legislation, however. Last month Murphy told NBC News that Democrats “have a chance” to get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster and pass new gun laws.

“The political calculus on gun safety has changed since the last time we saw significant action in the Senate in 2013,” Rob Wilcox, the federal legal director of the pro-gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety, said.

In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo Giffords Law Center Senior Policy Advisor David Chipman speaks at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)
David Chipman at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on assault weapons in 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

“The NRA is sidelined, they’re actually in court right now as part of their bankruptcy, and Americans across the political spectrum have voiced overwhelming support for background checks. What was the biggest roadblock, [Sen.] Mitch McConnell’s majority, has now become a minority. There’s going to be a vote and we’re going to see what happens when that comes. The truth is there’s a mandate for action on background checks, and we see it by the support from across the spectrum,” Wilcox said.

Biden, meanwhile, said Thursday that he would push for new firearm restrictions regardless of whether Congress goes along with it.

“My job, the job of any president, is to protect the American people. Whether Congress acts or not, I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal as president to keep the American people safe from gun violence, but there’s much more that Congress can do to help that effort and they can do it right now. They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress, but they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence. Enough prayers, time for some action.”

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