Biden to target 'ghost guns' and pistol braces used by Colorado mass shooter in first gun safety executive orders

President will address what a senior official called ‘the gun violence public health epidemic’

Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 08 April 2021 01:10
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Biden calls for gun control action following Boulder mass shooting
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President Joe Biden's first executive actions to address gun violence will include orders to combat the proliferation of so-called "ghost guns" and apply laws restricting the type of pistol stabilising brace used in last month's Boulder, Colorado mass shooting.

Mr Biden and his administration will take six different actions on Thursday to combat what a senior official called "the gun violence public health epidemic", ranging from directives to create new regulations governing untraceable build-it-yourself firearm kits to strengthening community violence prevention programmes.

He will also nominate a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agent to be that agency's first Senate-confirmed leader since 2015.

"We know that Americans are dying from gun violence, every single day in this country. That's why we are pursuing an agenda that will address not only mass shootings, but also community violence disproportionately affecting Black and brown Americans, domestic violence and suicide by firearm," the official said late on Wednesday while briefing reporters on the president's plans.

Mr Biden has long been an advocate of stronger firearm regulations, and helped pass two of the federal government’s most recent attempts at combating gun violence — the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act or Federal Assault Weapons Ban — through Congress in the 1990s.

While the US has not enacted a significant firearm restriction into law since the Clinton administration, White House officials say Mr Biden is determined to both pursue new gun safety legislation before Congress while using the authority he has as president to reduce the number of gun-related deaths from homicide and suicide.

"The President will not wait for Congress to act before the administration takes our own steps, fully within the administration's authority, and the second amendment to save lives," the official said.

The first action Mr Biden will sign on Thursday is an executive order directing the Justice Department to propose rules over the next 30 days that would stop the proliferation of so-called "ghost guns" – unfinished parts that are sold commercially without the markings required of working firearm parts and that can be fashioned into a working gun with commonly-available tools.

Mr Biden will also sign an order giving the Justice Department 60 days to propose a rule that would bring pistol stabilising braces under the auspices of the National Firearms Act provisions governing the possession and sale of rifles with barrels shorter than 16 inches or butt-stocks that can be fitted to handguns.

Such devices escaped regulation last year when the Trump administration withdrew guidance that would've effectively outlawed them, following pressure from Republicans in Congress and gun rights advocates. That meant that it was perfectly legal for the 21-year old suspect in last month's Boulder, Colorado mass shooting to buy such a brace and attach it to his pistol, creating a combined firearm which strongly resembled an AR-15 rifle.

Other actions which Mr Biden will announce include:

  • the first comprehensive Justice Department report on firearms trafficking since the turn of the century;
  • the nomination of former ATF agent and gun safety activist David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms;
  • changes to 26 separate programmes administered by five different agencies "to direct vital support to community violence intervention programmes as quickly as possible";
  • a Department of Health and Human Services-organised webinar to educate state officials on how to use Medicaid to pay for certain violence intervention programmes;
  • and forthcoming model "red flag" legislation that state legislatures can enact while the president pushes Congress to pass a national "red flag" law.

Such laws give police or family members the ability to petition courts to temporarily remove firearms from the possession of a person believed to be a danger to themselves or others due to a mental health crisis.

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