‘Enough prayers’: Biden says time for action on US gun control

President’s executive actions come in the wake of two mass shootings and pressure on legislators to pass more lasting laws.

The White House has called for congressional action on gun violence, but legislation faces slim chances of passing [File: Jim Young/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled a series of executive actions to address gun violence in the United States in his first major action on gun control since taking office.

“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and it is an international embarrassment,” Biden said at a White House ceremony attended by key members of Congress and representatives of gun control advocacy groups.

“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,” Biden said, citing statistics that show as many 100 people a day are killed by gunfire in the US.

Biden announced he would nominate David Chipman, a former federal agent and an adviser to gun control advocates, to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a key US regulatory agency.

The president’s moves came in the wake of two mass shootings in March, events that have become common occurrences in the US.

“The recent high-profile mass shootings in Boulder – taking the lives of 10 individuals – and Atlanta – taking the lives of eight individuals, including six Asian American women – underscored the relentlessness of this epidemic,” the White House said in a statement, referencing a March 22 shooting Colorado and a March 16 shooting in Georgia.

Biden’s executive actions do not require approval from Congress. But the president again called on US lawmakers to support more effective legislation to close loopholes in gun background checks, ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and to create so-called “red flag” laws, which permit police or family to petition courts to temporarily remove firearms from an individual believed to present a danger.

While the US House of Representatives passed a background-check bill last month, gun control measures face slim prospects in an evenly divided Senate, where Republicans remain near-unified against most proposals.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department will issue rules governing “ghost guns” – firearms usually sold in unassembled kits called “buy, build, shoot kits”- as well as modifications that effectively turn a pistol into a short-barreled rifle.

The shooter in Colorado used a pistol with an arm brace, which “can make a firearm more stable and accurate while still being concealable”, according to the White House.

Within 60 days, the Justice Department will publish model “red flag” legislation for states, which would allow people to petition courts to temporarily block gun ownership for anyone who is a threat to themselves or others. It will also publish an annual report on firearm trafficking.

The Biden administration further will invest in “evidence-based community violence interventions”.

Shannon Watts, the found of Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence, an arm of the former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg founded Everytown for Gun Safety, called the executive orders “a huge victory for the gun safety movement”.

“For years, survivors and advocates, including @MomsDemand volunteers, took on NRA-backed lawmakers who refused to act. Today, President Biden made it clear those days are over,” she tweeted.

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in an attack that killed five during a constituent meeting in Arizona in 2011, also praised the executive actions in a statement.

“Days like today are why we fought so hard to bring a gun safety champion to the White House,” said Giffords, who founded the gun violence prevention organisation Giffords in the wake of the shooting. “These executive actions help address a crisis that devastates communities across the country on a daily basis. Today, we have hope that a brighter future is in store.”

Source: Al Jazeera