September 25, 2021

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Biden to Announce Executive Actions to Tackle Gun Violence – The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — President Biden is expected to unveil a series of executive actions addressing gun violence on Thursday, weeks after back-to-back mass shootings left 18 people dead and pushed the issue of gun legislation to the forefront for an administration tackling multiple crises.

Mr. Biden is also expected to announce his intent to nominate David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, officials said. The bureau has not had a permanent director since 2015.

The moves come as Mr. Biden has been under pressure to address gun violence, but has made clear that pushing legislation through a blockade of Republican opposition is not currently feasible. Officials reiterated on Wednesday that the proposals the president planned to unveil with Merrick B. Garland, the attorney general, were only a start and that the president would continue to call on Congress to take action.

On Thursday, the Justice Department will announce three initiatives to fight gun violence.

One rule would help stop the proliferation of so-called ghost guns — kits that allow a gun to be assembled from pieces. White House officials would not say whether the administration would ultimately seek to classify ghost guns as firearms, only that the department was trying to stop criminals from buying kits containing all of the components and directions to build one.

A second rule would make clear that when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace transforms a pistol into a short-barrel rifle, that weapon is subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act. The gunman in the Boulder, Colo., shooting last month used a pistol with an arm brace, making it more stable and accurate, officials said.

Finally, the Justice Department will also publish model “red flag” legislation for states. The measure would allow police officers and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from people who may present a danger to themselves or others. While Mr. Biden cannot pass national red flag legislation without Congress, officials said the goal of the guidance was to make it easier for states that want to adopt it to do so now. The department also plans to release a comprehensive report on firearms trafficking, which it has not done since 2000.

Mr. Biden’s jobs plan calls on Congress to invest $5 billion over eight years to support evidence-based community violence intervention programs. Officials would not say whether they planned to try to increase the budget for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a move gun control advocates have pressed for.

With Congress unlikely to pass any gun legislation, the White House has underscored the importance of executive actions as a more realistic starting point to deliver on Mr. Biden’s campaign promises to end gun violence. Susan E. Rice, the director of the Domestic Policy Council, has served as the administration’s point person on the coming executive actions.

Still, gun control groups that supported Mr. Biden’s candidacy have criticized the president for not making gun legislation a top priority, as he had promised on the campaign trail.

To others, Mr. Biden’s decision to forge ahead with his ambitious jobs and infrastructure plan — even after two mass shootings — represented a more pragmatic approach by a president dealing with several crises and Republican opposition to gun control measures.

The House passed two gun control bills last month, but they are languishing in the Senate in the face of the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passing most legislation, which requires the support of at least 10 Republicans.

On Wednesday, officials previewing Mr. Biden’s first moves to curb gun violence emphasized that they were only an “initial set of actions,” tempering expectations for meatier or more specific initiatives by noting that Mr. Garland has been attorney general for less than a month.

“These much-needed executive actions will start saving lives right away,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, “and our grass-roots army of nearly six million supporters looks forward to standing behind President Biden as he urges the Senate to follow his lead and act.”

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