President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a slate of executive actions to curb what he called an “epidemic” of gun violence across the country, while again urging the Senate to take up a cluster of House-passed gun reform bills.
At an event in the White House Rose Garden, Biden — joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland — argued that “nothing” in his administration’s proposals “in any way impinges on the Second Amendment.”
“But no amendment to the Constitution is absolute,” Biden added, decrying the “phony arguments” from those who suggest Americans’ fundamental right to bear arms is “at stake.”
“The idea is just bizarre to suggest that some of the things we’re recommending are contrary to the Constitution,” Biden said. “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. Let me say it again: Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. And it’s an international embarrassment.”
Biden said he had asked the Justice Department to identify “immediate, concrete actions” he could take unilaterally as president, and proceeded to outline reforms including: reigning in so-called homemade “ghost guns,” requiring the Justice Department to issue a new annual report on firearms trafficking and further regulating weapons with stabilizing braces.
Biden also proposed releasing model “red-flag” legislation authored by the Justice Department for adopton by states, increasing investments in underserved communities and nominating David Chipman — a senior policy adviser for the gun control advocacy group Giffords — to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
But apart from his own executive actions, Biden also demanded that the Senate send to his desk three pieces of legislation that have already won passage in the House. Those bills would enact universal background checks and close the so-called “Charleston loophole” for gun sales, as well as reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
Beyond those House-approved measures, Biden repeated his call for a federal ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, and endorsed the rollback of liability protections for gun manufacturers. “The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation,” he said.
Garland expanded on Biden’s proposals and acknowledged he was “under no illusions about how hard it is to solve the problem of gun violence.” The Justice Department “cannot solve the problem” alone, he said, and Americans must work together “in a collective effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and saves lives.”
The National Rifle Association was quick to rebuke the White House event, with spokesperson Amy Hunter criticizing Biden’s choice of Chipman to lead the ATF and vowing the gun lobbying group would “fight this nomination and ill-conceived executive actions.”
Nick Niedzwiadek and Betsy Woodruff Swan contributed to this report.
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