Biden says gun violence is an epidemic and calls for national red flag legislation

President Joe Biden speaks about gun violence prevention at the White House Rose Garden in Washington, DC on April 8, 2021.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a series of executive actions aimed at reducing gun violence while pushing Congress to pass broader gun control legislation.

The bundle of actions, Biden’s first attempt as president to tackle America’s fraught gun politics, was revealed in the wake of a recent wave of mass shootings across the country, including deadly attacks in Georgia and Colorado.

“This is an epidemic, for God’s sake, and it has to stop,” Biden said in a Rose Garden speech.

Among other things, the White House has mandated the Department of Justice to draft a rule that will address the proliferation of undetectable “ghost weapons” and to publish an example of “red flag” legislation for states to follow.

Red flag laws allow police or family members to petition a court to deny a person access to firearms. Biden also called for a federal red flag law, saying such legislation would prevent suicides, protect women from domestic violence, and stop mass shooters before launching an attack.

Biden announced that he would nominate former federal agent David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Chipman, who has 25 years of experience as an ATF special agent, is a senior policy advisor for the gun control group Giffords.

Here’s what Biden’s actions will do according to the White House:

  • Order the Department of Justice to propose a rule within 30 days to help stop the proliferation of ghost weapons – firearms made up of kits that often lack serial numbers and are difficult to trace.
  • Order the DOJ to create a rule within 60 days clarifying the point at which a stabilizing armrest effectively turns a gun into a short-barreled rifle, subjecting that firearm to additional regulations.
  • Order the DOJ to publish within 60 days a model red flag legislation that allows law enforcement officers or family members to request a court to temporarily deny someone access to weapons under certain circumstances. The White House says the model legislation will make it easier for states to pass their own versions of that law.
  • Order the DOJ to issue a comprehensive arms trade report.

The government is also aiming to focus investment in “community violence interventions,” which are methods of reducing gun violence in cities without trapping people, the fact sheet said. Some metropolitan areas, such as New York City, are facing an increase in shootings and murders amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In his speech on Thursday, Biden regretted that gun violence has become “an international shame” for the US.

“Our flag was still flying on half staff for the victims of the horrific murder of eight mostly Asian-American people in Georgia, when another 10 people were killed in a massacre in Colorado,” Biden said.

He spoke after an introduction by Vice President Kamala Harris, and his speech was followed by remarks from Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The president stressed that the newly announced actions were only first steps, and that pressure was being put on federal lawmakers to pass arms reform proposals already approved by the Democrat-led House.

“There’s a lot more Congress can do to help that effort, and they can do it right now,” Biden said.

“They have spoken many thoughts and prayers, members of Congress. But they have not passed any new federal law to reduce gun violence,” he said.

“Plenty of prayers, time for some action.”

But Biden also said he is “willing to work with anyone to get this done” and expressed a desire to take additional steps, including re-establishing bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“We must also exclude arms manufacturers from the immunity they receive from Congress,” Biden said. “If I get one thing on my list, the Lord would come down and say, ‘Joe, you get one,’ give it to me. ‘