Election 2020 Politics

Biden calls gun violence in the U.S. an ‘epidemic’ and ‘embarrassment’ as he announces executive orders to tighten restrictions

In the White House Rose Garden, the president is expected to announce new rules on firearms that are assembled at home, which lack serial numbers and are harder to track, among other moves designed to make it harder for unqualified people to obtain dangerous weapons.

Biden also will announce David Chipman as his pick to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, although it is unclear how the nominee will fare in an evenly divided Senate. Chipman is a senior adviser to a gun control group founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was severely injured in a mass shooting in 2011.

Biden will be joined Thursday by Attorney General Merrick Garland and first lady Jill Biden, the White House said.

Biden’s moves come amid growing impatience from gun control activists because the administration has not acted more quickly. Biden promised during his campaign that he would take action to limit gun violence on the first day of his administration, but that fell by the wayside.

In his presidency’s early days, Biden has prioritized other emergency issues, including coronavirus pandemic relief and the struggling economy. He suggested recently that he considers gun control a less urgent priority that can be tackled over the long term.

Biden’s aides stressed that beyond mass shootings, the president wants to focus on curbing the more frequent and deadlier epidemic of day-to-day gun violence that disproportionately affects Blacks and Latinos.

A former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden has a long record of arms control initiatives, including the 10-year assault weapons ban that was part of a 1994 crime bill he sponsored.

But the politics of gun control are turbulent. Rural voters, who skew sharply Republican, strongly support gun rights, while the suburbanites coveted by both parties tend to be more open to gun control.

Among Biden’s highest-profile moves Thursday will be directing his administration to take action on “ghost guns,” firearms without serial numbers that are sold in kits and assembled at home. They will be a focus of his remarks, aides said.

The president also will direct the Justice Department to draft a new rule regulating a device that can be placed on a pistol to turn it into a short-barreled rifle.

And he plans to order the department to create a template that individual states can use to enact “red flag” laws, which allow judges to seize firearms from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Other initiatives include asking the Justice Department to issue a report on gun trafficking and directing several agencies to allocate more money for violence intervention programs.

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