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Biden to tackle gun violence with executive actions on ‘ghost guns’ and pistols

The Guardian - Thu Apr 8 00:01

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The Biden administration has unveiled several executive actions designed to curb gun violence, in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder. The administration is also planning to nominate David Chipman, a former federal agent and gun control advocate, to direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The actions include a directive that the justice department, within the next month, issue proposed regulations on “ghost guns” – unregistered firearms that can be assembled from parts.

Joe Biden will also direct the justice department to clarify regulations to ensure that pistols fitted with stabilizing braces, which essentially transform them into rifles, will be regulated under the National Firearms Act. Pistols are cheaper, and easier to carry across state lines, whereas rifles are more regulated. The suspect in the Boulder shooting used a pistol fitted with a brace that looks and operates like a rifle, and uses the same ammunition as the infamous AR-15, but isn’t regulated like a rifle under current laws.

And the president will ask various agencies to direct more resources to community violence prevention measures, and call on the justice department to develop model “red flag” laws – which allow family members to petition courts to take firearms away from people who are deemed a threat – for states to take up and adopt. Several states, including Colorado, already have red flag laws on the books.

Officials said that these new measures are only a start, and that the administration will encourage Democrats in Congress to pass more gun control reforms and consider other executive actions to reduce gun violence.

Biden, who as vice-president was in charge of steering the Obama administration’s gun violence prevention efforts, promised ambitious reforms while campaigning for the presidency. In the run-up to the 2020 elections, he vowed to enact legislation requiring background checks for all gun sales, ban online firearms sales and ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines – and regulate or buy back those already in circulation. Gun control advocates were disappointed at the president’s lack of immediate, early action after taking office – but welcomed Wednesday’s announcement.

“President Biden promised to take action on gun violence in his first 100 days in office, and today he delivered,” said former representative Gabby Giffords, who became a prominent anti-gun violence advocate after surviving a mass shooting. “These executive actions help address a crisis that devastates communities across the country on a daily basis.”

Naming Chipman as ATF director could be another step toward more comprehensive gun control. The post has been vacant since 2015. But Chipman faces an uphill battle in the Senate. Although Democrats have a slim majority, even moderates may be weary of Chiman’s strong positions against all assault weapons and other restrictions.

As a special agent for the ATF, Chipman investigated gun-trafficking operations and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. He later left the agency, and worked with Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention advocacy group, and ShotSpotter, a company that specializes in gunshot detection technology used by police. He now works as a policy adviser at Giffords, the former congresswoman’s gun control non-profit.

Getting gun control legislation passed through the Senate will be even more difficult, with Republicans staunchly opposed to legislation. After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012, Biden failed to push through major gun control legislation. Although Democrats had a majority then, the bill failed to garner enough support to overcome a filibuster. Democrats have an even narrower lead in the Senate now.