President Biden will unveil his first efforts to curb gun violence on Thursday and announce a series of modest measures to overhaul federal gun policy by changing the government’s definition of a firearm and responding more aggressively to urban gun violence.
Mr. Biden will also nominate David Chipman, a former special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, to lead the agency on Thursday. Chipman, a much-cited gun violence expert, has served in recent years as policy director for Giffords, the gun control organization founded by former representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was injured in a 2011 assassination attempt.
If confirmed, Chipman would be the agency’s first permanent director in more than six years. Given the fraught nature of gun politics, only one ATF director has been confirmed by the US Senate in the past 15 years, leaving the agency largely led by a line of acting bosses.
The president will formally announce the choice Thursday when he unveils other steps he is taking through executive action to address gun violence. He will be joined by Attorney General Merrick Garland, whose Justice Department will be tasked with taking some of the most aggressive steps in arms policy in more than a decade.
The changes include revising federal policy around ghost weapons – handmade or self-assembled firearms with no serial numbers – and the use of stabilizing braces on pistols, a modification that turns the weapon into a short-barreled rifle.
Gun control advocates are urging the president to classify ghost weapons as traditional firearms, a move that requires anyone buying them to undergo a federal background check. Thursday, Mr. Biden will give the Justice Department 30 days to report possible changes to federal rules “to help stop the proliferation of the weapons,” the White House said.
Given the handcrafted nature of the weapons, ghost weapons often cannot be tracked down by law enforcement because serial numbers are not required.
The Justice Department is also given 60 days to issue a proposed rule regarding the stabilization of braces. Attaching such a bracket to a pistol makes the firearm more stable and essentially turns it into a short-barreled rifle that is subject to regulation by federal law. The White House noted that the alleged gunman in the March shooting in Boulder, Colorado,
The Department of Justice will also be asked to draft model legislation to enact “red flag” laws at the state level. For years, lawmakers on both sides have pushed for federal and state legislation that would temporarily deny people with mental health problems or other personal crises access to firearms if the police or a judge ruled that they pose a danger to themselves or others.
To curb the rise in homicides across the country, the Biden administration is also asking five federal agencies to modify more than two dozen government programs to support rural community violence intervention programs. The White House noted that the president’s American Jobs Plan proposes to spend $ 5 billion over eight years to support state and city-level violence intervention programs.
The new plans received rapid support from national arms control organizations on Wednesday evening.
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement that the actions will “tackle the epidemic of gun violence that raged during the pandemic and deliver on President Biden’s promise to become the strongest gun safety president in history. . ” He later added that the decision to shoot ghost weapons and treat them “as the deadly weapons they are will undoubtedly save countless lives – as will the crucial funding provided to groups targeting urban gun violence.”
Organizations pushing for tougher gun laws and democratic lawmakers have for years pushed for the federal government to reclassify ghost weapons and force buyers to undergo background checks.
“Ghost weapons are weapons, too. And it is time to close the loophole,” Democratic congressman Adriano Espaillat, who has pushed for legislation to regulate ghost weapons, tweeted Wednesday
The NRA, meanwhile, immediately pushed back on the plans. The organisation tweeted Wednesday night that the actions were “extreme” and wrote “the NRA is ready to fight”.
“These actions could require law-abiding citizens to legally surrender property, and prompt states to expand arms confiscation orders,” the NRA tweeted.
Growing in popularity, but difficult to track widely given the lack of a serial number, ghost weapons have been used in multiple shooting-related crimes in recent years.
The Biden administration was reluctant to discuss gun control publicly amid its initial focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic downturn. At his first formal press conference last month, the president indicated that he would not be in a rush to address the issue, despite recent mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado, and that his administration would continue to focus primarily on encouraging legislative responses to the pandemic and its billions of dollars. infrastructure plan.
His decision allowed critics to highlight how Mr. Biden fell short of delivering on a remarkable campaign promise. Appearing in Nevada in February 2020, Mr. Biden pledged to send legislation to Congress on his first day in office that would repeal liability protections for arms manufacturers and close loopholes in the federal background check system.
For weeks, administrative aides have said the plans were still in the works – an attitude that hasn’t changed in the aftermath of those recent shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado.
Corey Rangel, Nancy Cordes, Kristin Brown and Fin Gomez contributed to this report.