President Biden, called U.S. gun violence “an international embarrassment,” took an initial move on Thursday to resolve this problem, beginning with repression against the proliferation of so-called ghost guns or weapons from kits.
In recognition that more ambitious acts, such as banning assault weapons, shutting down bottom-up checks, and excluding gun makers from liability litigation, will have to wait for Congress to take action, he said nevertheless it would be necessary for him to do what he called an epidemic of shootings that kill approximately 100 Americans a day.
“We have a long way to go—it feels like we’ve always been a long way to go,” Mr. Biden said, weeks after two mass shootings, at RoseGarden in Georgia and Colorado, he left 18 people dead and pressured the government to take action.
The president’s announcement of the move was not very close to the wide-ranging legislative reforms that had long been pursued by advocates of making it more difficult to purchase firearms, particularly semi-automatic weapons frequently used in mass shootings.
The most important measures were directed at the Justice Department to stop the spread of fantastic weapons. Bassets for these weapons can be purchased without background checks and allow a gun to be assembled from unnumbered parts.
Mr. Biden said he wanted the department to issue a rule within one month to mandate that the components of the kits should be traceable with serial numbers and that they should legally be listed as firearms and that buyers should be subject to background checks.
“I want these kits to be treated as gun-control weapons,” said the president.
The Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau reported that in 2019 10,000 ghost weapons were seized by law enforcement. Cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and San Diego have seen substantial rises since then in the number of such weapons recovered every year.
Experts said ghost weapons have become especially attractive to criminal gangs and extremists on the right who want access to untraceable firearms that do not need background checking. They are also associated with shooting in countries like California where stringent weapons regulations have been introduced.
The emphasis on ghost weapons also highlighted the intention of the White House to deal with weapon violence in general and not just mass shootings that receive extensive news attention.
“Ghost guns have a disproportionate effect on gun violence in colored communities. They undermine states with strict weapons legislation,” Christian Heyne, Brady’s vice president of policy: United Against Gun Violence, an important advocate of stronger gun laws.
Ghost weapons were also used on several mass shootings, one in 2013 at Santa Monica College in California, where 5 people were killed; one in 2017 in Northern California, where one gunman killed his wife and 4 others; another in 2019, a high school in California where a 16-year-old murdered two students and wounded three others.
Still a small measure such as answering the question of fantasy weapons that have been in use for years demonstrates how the policies of gun control have become paralyzed.
Despite the financial difficulties of the National Rifle Association, the lobbying influence of the organization remains formidable and the arms campaign holds the Republican Party unblocked. Action on key guns – universal background checks, for example, and prohibition of attack weapons – remains stalled due to the narrow partisan gap in the Senate and the filibuster’s 60-point requirement.
In several Republican states, gun rights advocates have the upper hand. On Thursday, Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee, a Republican, signed a law enabling most of the state’s adults to carry handguns, either concealed or openly, without any permission, background control, or training.
Due to the wall of Republican resistance, proponents of more conservative weapons law and regulations praised even the modest steps announced by Mr. Biden on Thursday, which emphasized how their aspirations were limited by political realities.
“President Feinblatt has run on the best gun-safety agenda in history, and now he has shown that he will rule like that,” said Everytown’s president of Gun Safety, John Feinblatt.
However, other supporters of arms control caught up in Mr. Biden last month after he said at the news conference that priority was the key to legislative progress, and that the infrastructure — not weapons — was next in his roster.
The President detailed some other steps he took himself on Thursday. He said that if a device called a stabilizer turns a pistol into a short barrel rifle efficiently, that weapon will be subject to the specifications of the National Firearms Act. That would make these guns additional regulatory layers necessary for more severe weapons or silencers, including fingerprinting, background checks, and routine license renewals.
The Boulder shooter, Col., shot last month using an arm bracelet to make the gun more secure and precise, the president said.
Mr. Biden said the Department of Justice would also issue a “red flag” model of state legislation. This bill would permit police officers and family members to request a court to seize weapons temporarily from individuals who may be dangerous to themselves or others.
Whereas without the Congress the president is unable to pass national red flag legislation, officials said that the guidance was aimed at making it simpler for States that want to do so now.
Mr. Biden said that “Red Flag laws could deter mass shooters before they can execute their violent plans.”
19 states and Washington, D.C. have passed their own red flag legislation at the moment. And while Alaska and Wisconsin consider taking their own steps, it is not clear how many others would choose to do so — or would find the model law useful.
“Math is more complicated here because so many countries already have it,” said Mr. Heyne. “We are now beginning to dive into a different category of states that do not even pass background checks.”
Analysts said that the model law will be used more often to amend the existing legislation of a state like Connecticut, a pioneer in gun protection legislation, rather than to take new steps for a more conservative state such as Wyoming.
Besides mass shootings, gun violence is still the leading cause of death for Black men between the ages of 15 and 34. In his remarks, he said that more support for community-based violence services he introduced would save lives.
“Gun violence in our neighborhood impacts our children deeply, even though they never pull the trigger or are victimized on the other hand,” he said.
Mr. Biden also confirmed the A.T.F. — the firearms enforcement agency — is conducting a new review on illegal trafficking in weapons, something it hasn’t done since 2000. The study considers that modern weapons can be made out of plastic, printed on a 3D printer, or sold in assembly kits.
The President has named David Chipman to head the Department, which has no permanent director since 2015 as a proponent of tighter gun rules.
Mr Chipman, a consultant to the arms control organisation created by former Gabrielle Giffords representative, is a former A.T.F agent. After being shot in the head in a mass shooting in 2011, Ms Giffords left Congress in Tucson, Ariz.
Although Mr. Chipman’s appointment was welcome news to gun control groups, he is faced with a potentially challenging battle for confirmation in the Senate.
For decades the Republicans have essentially blocked the A.T.F., mostly at the request of the National Rifle Association, which preferred to hold the organization in a compromised state. N.R.A. was able to lobby Republicans so that the department could prohibit the transfer of compliance authority to the F.B.I. or Secret Service and limit the unannounced searches of weapons sellers or the digitization of their records.
In 2006, legislators affiliated with the National Rifle Association passed a clause that the A.T.F. director should be confirmed by the Senate. Consequently, in the past 15 years only one director, B. Todd Jones, who was nominated by President Barack Obama, was confirmed.
Mr. Biden’s Thursday efforts demonstrate how much more difficult it has been for Democrats to push their arms agenda since he was in the Senate. Mr. Biden played a crucial role in 1993 in passing the legendary Act on the Prevention of Violence by Brady Handgun, formerly called James S. Brady, Secretary of the White House, who was fired in an attempt at murdering President Ronald Reagan. A year later, Mr. Biden helped to authorize a 10-year prohibition on weapons of attack.
He said that the worst day in the Obama White House was in 2013, when the Senate declined the plan by the government to broaden background checks after the 2012 shooting of 26 people, 20 of them girls, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Mr. Biden admitted on Thursday that he could only do so much without Congress. “It’s just a beginning,” he said. “We have more work to do,” he said, calling gun violence a “misunderstanding of our character as a country.”
The Parliament approved two gun control bills last month, but they languish in the Senate in view of the 60-vote threshold of the Chamber to pass most laws requiring the support of at least 10 Republicans.
“They gave several thoughts and prayers, Congressmen, but not one federal law was enacted to combat weapons abuse,” said Biden. “Satisfied with prayers. Action time.” Action time.