Washington – President Biden is set to unveil his first attempts to tackle gun violence on Thursday, announcing a series of modest measures intended to begin to revamp federal gun policy by changing the government’s definition of a gun and responding more aggressively to gun violence in urban settings.
Mr Biden is also expected to appoint David Chipman, a former special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), as head of the agency on Thursday. A widely cited expert on gun violence, Chipman has served in recent years as political director of Giffords, the gun control organization founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was injured in an attempt assassination in 2011.
If confirmed, Chipman would be the agency’s first permanent director for more than six years. Given the tense nature of gun policy, only one ATF director has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate in the past 15 years, leaving the agency primarily run by a series of acting bosses.
The president is set to officially announce the choice on Thursday when he unveils other steps he is taking through executive action to tackle gun violence. He will be joined by Attorney General Merrick Garland, whose Justice Department will be responsible for taking some of his most aggressive gun policy moves in more than a decade.
The changes include revised federal policy on ghost guns – handcrafted or self-assembled firearms that do not include serial numbers – and the use of stabilizer braces on pistols, a modification that transforms the weapon into a short barrel shotgun.
Gun control advocates are pushing the president to classify ghost guns as traditional firearms, a move that would require anyone who buys them to go through a federal background check. On Thursday, Biden will give the Justice Department 30 days to issue possible changes to federal rules “to help stop the proliferation” of weapons, according to the White House.
Due to the home-made nature of weapons, ghost weapons often cannot be traced by law enforcement as serial numbers are not required.
The Department of Justice also has 60 days to issue a proposed rule regarding stabilizing orthotics. Attaching such a splint to a pistol makes the firearm more stable and essentially turns it into a short barrel rifle subject to regulation by federal law. The White House noted that the suspected gunman in the March supermarket shooting in Boulder, Colorado,.
The Ministry of Justice will also be asked to draft a model law to enact “red flag” laws at the state level. For years, lawmakers on both sides have pushed for federal and state legislation that would temporarily bar people facing mental anguish or other personal crises from accessing firearms if law enforcement or a judge determine that they present a danger to themselves or to others.
To curb the rise in homicides across the country, the Biden administration is also asking five federal agencies to adapt more than two dozen government programs to help support community violence intervention programs nationwide. The White House noted that the president’s U.S. Jobs Plan proposes to spend $ 5 billion over eight years to support violence intervention programs in states and cities.
The new plans got swift support from national gun control organizations on Wednesday evening.
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement that these measures “will begin to address the epidemic of gun violence that has raged throughout the pandemic and deliver on President Biden’s promise to to be the strongest gun safety chairman in history. ” He later added that the decision to target phantom weapons and “treat them like the deadly weapons that they are will undoubtedly save countless lives – as will the critical funding provided to groups that focus on violence. army of cities. ”
Organizations pushing for tougher gun laws and Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for years for the federal government to reclassify ghost guns and require buyers to submit to a background check.
“Phantom weapons are also firearms. And it is time to fill this gap, ”said Democratic MP Adriano Espaillat, who pushed for legislation regulating ghost weapons, tweeted wednesday.
The NRA, meanwhile, immediately rejected the plans. The organization tweeted wednesday evening that the actions were “extreme” and wrote “the NRA is ready to fight”.
“These actions could compel law-abiding citizens to render property legal and push states to expand firearms confiscation orders,” the NRA tweeted.
Increasingly popular but difficult to follow overall given the lack of a serial number, phantom weapons have been used in multiple shoot-related crimes over the past few years.
The Biden administration has been reluctant to discuss gun control publicly as it initially focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic downturn. During his first official press conference last month, the president indicated that he would not be in a rush to tackle the problem despite the recent mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado and that his administration would remain primarily focused on the issue. promoting legislative responses to the pandemic and its billion dollars. infrastructure plan.
His move allowed critics to point out how Mr. Biden failed to fulfill a notable campaign pledge. Appearing in Nevada in February 2020, Biden vowed to send legislation to Congress on his first day in office that would repeal the gunmaker liability protection and close loopholes in the federal system for verifying guns. firearms history.
For weeks, administrative assistants said the plans were still being worked out – a posture that has not changed in the wake of these recent shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colo.
Corey Rangel, Nancy Cordes, Kristin Brown and Fin Gomez contributed to this report.