“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic,” Biden told an audience of lawmakers and Americans affected by gun violence in the Rose Garden. “And that’s an international embarrassment.”
Executive actions – which Biden has repeatedly argued did nothing to infringe on the Second Amendment right to bear arms – include efforts to restrict weapons known as “ghost guns” that can be built at using parts and instructions purchased online.
Biden stressed that the announcements were only the first steps in tackling gun violence, with subsequent action – like a ban on assault weapons or rules requiring universal background checks – demanding Congress. Biden, who is pushing forward a massive infrastructure plan, has previously expressed uncertainty about the likelihood of passing major new gun laws.
On Thursday, he acknowledged the continuing struggle to convince Washington to act on a seemingly intractable issue.
“We have a long way to go,” he said, “it seems like we still have a long way to go.”
But he insisted that lawmakers must break the pattern.
“They offered many thoughts and prayers to members of Congress, but they did not pass a single new federal law to reduce gun violence,” he said. “Enough prayers, now is the time to act.”
West wing moved after recent shootings
As the nation’s stance on guns evolved, Biden has been at the forefront at every stop for more than three decades, from the triumph of a 10-year ban on assault weapons to 1994 to the disappointment of a failure. push for universal background checks following the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.
Recent shootings in Georgia and Colorado had raised the question inside the West Wing of how much political capital Biden should spend on this issue, which so often ended in frustration. Like former President Barack Obama, Biden has determined that executive actions are a more viable vehicle for progress given a tightly divided Congress and a list of other pressing priorities.
Biden said depriving gunmakers of liability protection would be high on his list of legislative gun control priorities.
“The only industry in America, a billion dollar industry, that cannot be continued,” he said. “Imagine how different it would be if this same exemption had been offered to tobacco companies?”
The point was part of a list of actions Biden said Congress must take to address gun violence. But he said it could potentially have a disproportionate effect.
“If I get one thing on my list, the Lord came down and said, ‘Joe, you take one, give me that one,’” he said. “I’ll tell you what, there would be a coming to the Lord at a time when these people would have real quick.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to hold votes on gun legislation and confirm Chipman.
“While the actions of the president’s executive are essential, they do not replace meaningful legislation to address the epidemic of gun violence. The American people demand action from Congress, and I have pledged to organize votes in the United States Senate on gun violence prevention legislation, ”he said in a statement. “I also look forward to the Senate quickly processing and confirming the President’s superbly qualified candidate for ATF head.”
The ATF’s position is often embroiled in the tense gun control policy. Chipman is a former ATF agent who is a senior policy adviser at Giffords, the organization led by former congressman Gabby Giffords, who became a gun control advocate after being shot in 2011.
Rules target phantom weapons and braces
Ghost pistols are handcrafted or self-assembled firearms that do not have a serial number. Some can be made in as little as 30 minutes using kits and parts purchased online. Biden ordered the Justice Department to release a proposed rule to “stop the proliferation” of these weapons, though a senior administration official planning the step declined to say how the rule – expected in 30 days – could work.
Another proposed rule would target stabilizer braces for pistols, which aid in weapon accuracy and manage recoil. Under the new rule, devices – which the senior administration official said transform pistols into short-barreled rifles – would be covered by the regulations of the national firearms law, including the requirement recording. Last month’s mass gunman in Boulder, Colo. Used a modified pistol with an arm splint, according to a police source.
Biden also announced new investments in intervention programs in communities prone to violence; a direction to the Department of Justice to publish model “red flag” laws for states that allow the temporary withdrawal of firearms from those deemed to be at high risk of injury or harm to others; and a comprehensive report on trafficking in firearms.
Taken together, these actions constitute the first real steps taken by the Biden administration to address gun violence. Inside the White House, efforts to craft executive actions have been led by Susan Rice, director of the White House Home Policy Council, and Cedric Richmond, director of the Office of Public Engagement, told CNN officials from administration and gun safety advocacy groups.
This involved meeting with some of these groups and brainstorming what steps Biden could take on his own. Some advocates had called for action earlier in the administration, pointing to Biden’s promise to prioritize gun control during his campaign.
Biden made the announcements Thursday from the rose garden alongside his attorney general, Merrick Garland, whose Justice Department will be responsible for drafting the proposed rules.
“We are here today not at a time of tragedy, but in the midst of an enduring tragedy,” Garland said, detailing some of the steps he has been tasked with taking, including efforts to measure the trafficking in firearms “in a data-driven manner”. with an updated ATF study that will assess the weapons of 3D printers and other new technologies.
This story has been updated with details from the Rose Garden announcement.
CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.