WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden, in his first major arms control measures since taking office, announced executive action Thursday to tackle what the White House calls an “epidemic of public health against gun violence.”
Biden also nominated David Chipman, a former federal agent and adviser to the Giffords Arms Control Group, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Biden is facing growing pressure to act after a recent series of mass shootings, but the White House has repeatedly stressed the need for legislative action. While the House passed a bill to check the past last month, gun control measures faced little prospect in an evenly divided Senate, where Republicans remained almost united against most proposals.
A White House statement says the shootings “underscore”
Biden will join Late Morning Rose Garden by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Most of the action comes from the Ministry of Justice.
Biden tightens regulations requiring buyers of “ghost weapons” to pass inspections. Domestic firearms – usually assembled from parts and milled with a metal cutting machine – often lack the serial numbers used to track them. It is legal to build a gun in a home or workshop and there is no federal requirement to verify the past.
The Ministry of Justice will issue a proposed rule aimed at mastering ghost weapons within 30 days, although details have not been released immediately.
The second proposed rule, expected within 60 days, will tighten provisions on pistol stabilization brackets, such as the one used by Boulder’s shooter, Colorado, in a rage last month that left 10 dead. The rule will define pistols used with stabilizing clamps as short-barreled rifles that require a federal license and are subject to a more in-depth application process and a $ 200 tax.
The department also publishes model legislation within 60 days, which aims to make it easier for states to adopt their own “red flag” laws. Such laws allow people to apply to a court to allow the police to confiscate weapons from a person who is considered dangerous to them or others.
The department will also begin to provide more data on firearms trafficking, starting with a new comprehensive report on the subject. The administration says this has not been done for more than two decades.
Biden also invests in community violence intervention programs aimed at reducing gun violence in urban communities at five federal agencies.
Officials said the enforcement actions were “initial steps” completed in Garland’s first weeks at work and the relocation may be forthcoming.
Currently, ATF is managed by Acting director Regina Lombardo. Proponents of gun control have stressed the importance of this position in enforcing gun laws, and Chipman is sure to win praise from the group. During his tenure as senior policy adviser at Giffords, he made significant efforts to push for greater regulation and enforcement of ghost weapons, changes to the past screening system and measures to reduce trafficking in illegal firearms.
Chipman spent 25 years as an agent at the ATF, where he worked to stop trafficking in illegal firearms from Virginia to New York, and served on the ATF SWAT team. Chipman owns a weapon.
He is an expert on explosives and was among the team involved in the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing and the first bombing of the World Trade Center. He was also involved in the investigation of a series of church attacks in Alabama in the 1990s. He retired from the ATF in 2012.
A White House statement said Chipman had worked “to advance common sense in gun safety laws.”
During his campaign, Biden vowed to prioritize new arms control measures as president, including passing universal legislation to verify the past, banning the online sale of firearms and the production and sale of high-capacity assault weapons and magazines. But proponents of gun control said so that while they were reassured by White House signs that they took the problem seriously, they were disappointed by the lack of early action.
However, with the announcement of the new measures, defenders praised Biden’s first moves to combat gun violence.
“Each of these executive actions will begin to tackle the epidemic of gun violence that is raging during the pandemic and will begin to fulfill President Biden’s promise to be the strongest gun security president in history,” John said. Feinblatt, president of Everytown Gun Safety.
In particular, Feinblatt praised the ghost arms control move, which he said would “undoubtedly save countless lives” and praised Chipman as a “priceless man” in the fight against illicit arms trafficking. He added that the group looks forward to continuing to work with the Biden administration on further gun control measures, but it is unclear what next steps the White House or Capitol Hill lawmakers will be able to take.
Biden himself expressed uncertainty late last month when asked if he had the political capital to accept new arms control proposals, telling reporters: “I haven’t done any censuses yet.”
For years, federal officials have been alarmed by the growing black market for homemade, semi-automatic rifles and military-style pistols. Ghost weapons are increasingly appearing at crime scenes, and in recent years they have become more and more common when federal agents buy weapons in covert operations from gang members and other criminals.
It is difficult to say how many of them are circulating on the streets, in part because in many cases police departments do not even contact the federal government about weapons because they cannot be traced.
Some states, such as California, have passed laws in recent years requiring serial numbers to be stamped on ghost weapons.
The critical component in building an untraceable pistol is what is known as the lower receiver, a part usually made of metal or polymer. An unfinished receiver – sometimes called an “80 percent receiver” – can be legally purchased online without serial numbers or other markings, no license required.
An armed man who killed his wife and four others in Northern California in 2017, he was banned from possessing firearms, but he created his own to circumvent the court order before his rage. And in 2019, a teenager uses a homemade gun to fatally shoot two classmates and injure three others at a school in a Los Angeles suburb.
Associated Press writer Lisa Marie Payne of Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.