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Biden to target 'ghost guns' and 'red flag' laws in new gun control measures

Photo courtesy of Erin Scott / Reuters

The president will try to curb the spread of homemade firearms that lack traceable serial numbers.

Posted: Apr 8, 2021 10:52 AM

NBC News- WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will seek to limit "ghost guns" and make it easier for people to flag family members who shouldn't be allowed to purchase firearms as part of a series of executive actions Thursday in the wake of recent mass shootings.

Efforts to find bipartisan agreement for popular gun control measures have fizzled, even as lawmakers expressed openness to provisions like tightening background checks.

The actions by Biden are limited and will still likely face legal opposition from gun rights advocates, who view any efforts to limit access as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Biden is scheduled to appear in the Rose Garden and will be joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland. A number of Democratic congressional members, gun control advocates and local officials are also expected to attend.

Biden is also expected to announce he is nominating David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF.

The White House detailed the planned executive actions, arguing that Biden's instructions to the Department of Justice will curb access to guns.

Biden will direct the DOJ to write rules that will reduce the proliferation of "ghost guns," homemade firearms often made from parts bought online and that do not have traceable serial numbers.

Biden will also see to reduce access to stabilizing braces, which can effectively turn a pistol into a more lethal rifle while not being subject to the same regulations that a rifle of similar size would be.

Finally, he will ask the DOJ to publish model "red flag" laws for states to use a guides. Red flag laws allow family members or law enforcement agencies to petition state courts to temporarily block people from obtaining firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others.

Biden will also direct the DOJ to issue a report on firearms trafficking, which hasn't been done since 2000. He will also announce support for programs aimed at "reducing gun violence in urban communities through tools other than incarceration," according to a fact sheet shared by the White House.

Biden has faced pressure from Democrats and gun control activists to take immediate action to address gun violence in the wake of shootings in Georgia, Colorado and California. House Democrats have passed gun control legislation, but there isn’t enough support even among Democrats in the Senate to advance that bill.

Gun control activists have also criticized Biden for not making gun control legislation an early priority of his administration, as he promised to do during his campaign for president.

In a call with reporters Wednesday night, administration officials stressed that Thursday's actions were just the first step and that Biden would still pursue legislative solutions to gun violence.

"This is an initial set of actions to make progress on President Biden's gun violence reduction agenda," one official said. "The administration will be pursuing legislative and executive actions at the same time. You will continue to hear the president call for Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence."

Still, it is unclear just how much political capital Biden is willing to put into getting gun control legislation passed on Capitol Hill where Republicans remain staunchly opposed to Democrats' proposals, especially as he turns his focus to getting his American Jobs Plan passed and as he continues to deal with the pandemic.

At a news conference late last month, Biden indicated that he was focused on other legislative priorities, such as his infrastructure plan.

"It's a matter of timing," he said, when asked about gun control legislation. "As you've all observed, successful presidents, better than me, have been successful in large part because they know how to time what they're doing, order it, decide priorities, what needs to be done."

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