President Biden announced his administration’s six gun control policies to curb gun violence in a press conference Thursday afternoon at the White House. Biden, whose administration had previously eyed the possibility of taking executive action to address the gun control issue, referred to gun violence in the United States as an “epidemic” that has to be curbed.
Biden also made a controversial statement while addressing the press, saying that even if the right to bear arms is stated in the Constitution via the Second Amendment, “no Amendment to the Constitution is absolute” arguing that there have always been some limitations on who can own firearms.
The announcement came after the recent mass shootings in Colorado and Atlanta, where almost 18 people were killed. Aside from presenting his executive actions on the issue, the president also called the Senate to vote in favor of the two bills approved by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on the issue of gun control.
Gun legislation, however, face some significant difficulties to get through Congress as the Democrats would need to either convince 10 Republican Senators to agree with them or destroy the legislative filibuster once and for all.
Since widespread legislation on gun control looks like a pipe dream at best, most of the actions Biden can immediately take on the issue would be through his executive power.
Biden’s six gun control policies, explained
A ban on “ghost guns”
The president announced that his administration would treat those firearms under the Gun Control Act, which would make it mandatory for licensed sellers to conduct background checks to prospective buyers and tp make the key parts of the guns with serial numbers, so they could be traced by the relevant federal and state authorities.
The term “Ghost Guns” is used to refer to firearms that are sent by parts to the buyers, who finalizes the ensembling of the firearm on his own. Authorities have been concerned by the rise of this type of guns for a while, as they are untraceable and do not require a background check as they are technically not guns when sold.
Regulating pistol-stabilizing braces
Another of the actions that Biden announced during his conference was adding new regulations regarding the sale of pistol-stabilizing braces, which are devices attached to the breech of a handgun making it possible for the user to secure the gun in his forearm (like a rifle), making it easier to handle heavier guns.
The Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau (ATF) has had a long-lasting standard policy considering that buying a should stock and attaching it into a regulated gun would transform such a weapon into a short-barrelled rifle. However, the bureau has also stated that using pistol-stabilizing braces does not fall into this rule, a decision that Biden is effectively intending to eliminate.
Biden has decided to include this gun attachment into the National Firearms Act, potentially forcing buyers to pay a $200 fee and submit their name to the Justice Department, the same requirement needed for buying a silencer for a gun.
Emphasis on Red Flag laws
Biden also said the federal government, specifically the Justice Department, would publish a standard red flag law that would serve as a model for the state legislatures to draft their own laws. According to the President, the nationwide implementation of this type of bills would significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by guns in the country either by murder or suicide.
According to the Congressional Research Service, “red flag” laws vary by state but follow the same basic rationale: it allows for individuals to petition the courts to temporarily prevent certain individuals to have access to guns as they might present a risk to either themselves or others. Usually, those who can request that are law enforcement official and family or household members. As of August 2019, 17 out of the 50 states in the U.S. have adopted some sort of red flag law.
Nomination of a new director for the ATF
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is one of the government agencies most involved in the gun issue, as its name would suggest, and it has remained without a permanent Director since 2015 and has functioned with acting directors ever since. Even Trump was forced to withdraw his nominee in 2020 after many conservative senators expressed concerns over his intentions to restrict gun access.
Biden nominated David Chipman as his pick to lead the ATF, and said that he was confident he was the “right person” to lead the agency at this moment. Chipman, who has worked in the ATF for 25 years, will face a tough challenge in his Senate confirmation process as it is certain that many Republicans would challenge his views on guns.
Funding on local gun control proposals and commissioning a federal study on gun violence
Biden finally announced his administration would increase funding for community-based proposals aimed at curbing gun violence, with a special emphasis on urban communities where murder is higher than in the rest of the country. The president touted the economic benefits these type of programs could bring to the country, as he said that gun-related violence costs $280 billion a year to the American taxpayer, a number that was reported in 2018 by the Everytown for Gun Safety organization, which is a non-profit pro-gun control group.
Finally, the White House announced the mandatory creation of an annual report commissioned by the ATF aimed at reporting the new trends, data, and new developments that have arised on the issue of guns in the United States.
Biden closed his address by pressuring Congress on taking an active role in passing the legislation approved by the Democrats in the House, saying this issue ought not to be a partisan one.
The administration is wanting to flex their muscles and shows they are committed to implementing significant gun control policies during their term, which explains the executive actions taken by Biden on Thursday. However, any significant action must come from Congress, not the Oval Office and Biden knows it.