gun violence

Biden Says Gun Violence in U.S. Is an Epidemic, Unveils Executive Actions and Calls for National Red Flag Law

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
  • President Biden announced a series of executive actions aimed at reducing gun violence, while urging Congress to pass broader gun-control legislation.
  • The actions were unveiled in the wake of a recent spate of mass shootings across the country, including a deadly attack Thursday in South Carolina.
  • The actions direct the Justice Department to craft a rule addressing untraceable "ghost guns" and to publish example "red flag" legislation for states.
  • Biden also called for a national red-flag law.

President Joe Biden announced a series of executive actions on Thursday to reduce gun violence and urged Congress to pass broader gun-control legislation.

The bundle of actions, Biden's first attempt as president to tackle the fraught politics surrounding guns in America, was unveiled in the wake of a recent spate of mass shootings across the country, including Thursday in South Carolina, where five people were gunned down. In the past three weeks, other deadly mass shootings occurred in Georgia, Colorado and California.

"This is an epidemic, for God's sake, and it has to stop," Biden said in a Rose Garden speech.

The White House's moves include directing the Department of Justice to craft a rule addressing the spread of untraceable "ghost guns" and publish an example of "red flag" legislation for states to follow.

Red-flag laws allow police or family members to petition a court to bar an individual from accessing firearms. Biden also called for a federal red-flag law, saying such legislation would prevent suicides, protect women from domestic violence, and stop mass shooters before they carry out an attack.

Biden announced he would nominate former federal agent David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Chipman, who spent 25 years as an ATF special agent, is a senior policy advisor for the gun-control advocacy group Giffords.

Here's what Biden's actions will do, according to the White House:

  • Direct the Justice Department to propose a rule within 30 days to help stop the proliferation of ghost guns – firearms assembled from kits that often lack serial numbers and are difficult to trace.
  • Direct the DOJ to craft a rule within 60 days that clarifies the point at which a stabilizing arm brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle, subjecting that firearm to additional regulations.
  • Direct the DOJ to publish, within 60 days, model red-flag legislation, which lets law enforcement officers or family members ask a court to temporarily bar someone from accessing guns under certain circumstances. The White House says the model legislation will make it easier for states to pass their own versions of that law.
  • Direct the DOJ to issue a comprehensive report on gun trafficking.

Biden also called for Congress to end the broad immunity that gun-makers have from being sued for shootings.

The administration also hopes to focus investment in "community violence interventions," which are methods for lowering gun violence in cities without incarcerating people, the fact sheet said. Some metropolitan areas, such as New York City, are grappling with a surge in shooting crimes and homicides amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In his speech Thursday, Biden lamented that gun violence has become "an international embarrassment" for the U.S.

"Our flag was still flying at half staff for the victims of the horrific murder of eight primarily Asian American people in Georgia, when 10 more lives were taken at a mass murder in Colorado," Biden said.

He spoke after an introduction from Vice President Kamala Harris, and his speech was followed by remarks from Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The president emphasized that the newly announced actions were merely initial steps, and heaped pressure on federal lawmakers to pass gun-reform proposals that have already been approved by the Democrat-led House.

"There's much more that Congress can do to help that effort, and they can do it right now," Biden said.

"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," he said.

"Enough prayers; time for some action."

But Biden also said he's "willing to work with anyone to get this done," and expressed a desire to take additional actions, including reinstating a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

"We should also eliminate gun manufacturers from the immunity they receive from the Congress," Biden said. "If I get one thing on my list, Lord came down and said, 'Joe, you get one of these,' give me that one."

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