Biden takes new actions on ghost guns
From a public safety and political standpoint, the president is in no position to stand pat. So he’s doing what he can with what he has.
President Joe Biden this afternoon will announce a series of new actions his administration hopes will reduce gun violence across the country.
The additional steps come as violent crime is up in big cities and Republicans double-down on a law-and-order campaign message designed to turn out their voter base as they look to reclaim the majority in the House and Senate during November’s midterm elections.
Biden will also nominate Steve Dettelbach to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the federal agency responsible for enforcing the nation’s gun laws.
During Biden’s remarks, he will discuss a new federal regulation of so-called ghost guns, homemade firearms without commercial serial numbers. According to the White House, there were 20,000 suspected ghost guns reported to ATF last year, a ten-fold increase from 2016. These untraceable weapons aren’t subject to federal or state commercial background check regulations, which contributes to the difficulty law enforcement has attempting to trace a ghost gun found at a crime scene to an individual purchaser.
The administration will now clarify guns made from unserialized kits that people can buy online or in-store without a background check to assemble a working weapon with the equipment they have at home in as little as 30 minutes as firearms under the Gun Control Act. As a result, commercial manufacturers of the kits must become licensed and include serial numbers on specific parts of the kit and commercial sellers must become federally licensed and run pre-sale background checks.
For ghost guns already in circulation, federally licensed dealers and gunsmiths accepting an unserialized firearm into their inventory must serialize that weapon before selling it to a customer. Some of these guns are made from individual parts, the aforementioned kits or by 3D printers. The White House says this requirement will apply regardless of how the firearm was made.
According to ATF’s National Tracing Center, on average more than 1,300 firearms a year are untraceable because the federally licensed firearms dealer destroyed the relevant records that were more than 20 years old. So the Justice Department will now require licensed firearms dealers to retain key records until they shut down their business or no longer sell weapons. Then, the dealers will have to transfer the records to ATF. (These dealers were previously permitted to destroy most records after 20 years, which complicated law enforcements’ efforts to trace guns recovered at crime scenes.
The regulation also updates the regulatory definitions of specific parts of a gun to close a loophole that could exempt as many as 90 percent of firearms in the United States today based on a broad interpretation of an older directive.
Dettelbach, Biden’s nominee to lead the ATF, is touted as a highly respected former federal prosecutor with a record of innovation in fighting crime and violence and the experience to take on both gun crime and domestic violent extremism and religious violence.
David Chipman, the president’s first ATF nominee was withdrawn last fall, in the face of stiff opposition from gun advocacy groups, Republican senators and even a few Democrats.
The agency hasn’t had a confirmed director in six years and has had only one since 2006 when Congress made the position subject to Senate confirmation.
At press time, it’s unclear if Dettelbach will have an easier go during the confirmation process.
What’s clear though is that the same Republicans who speak in law-and-order talking points are wholly uninterested in considering any meaningful reforms and economic investments that could prevent gun crimes.
Not to mention, these actions fall short of addressing the gun violence perpetrated by police officers toward Black and brown people.
Last year, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from California, were in serious negotiations on a police reform bill but they fell apart after the lawmakers couldn’t agree on a compromise to qualified immunity, the principle that protects officers from most civil suits. (Republicans argue that eliminating this protection would harm police recruitment; Democrats say the doctrine effectively serves as blanket liability for serious police misbehavior.
And since we’re less than seven months from a consequential election, there’s no appetite to resume talks on such a contentious issue and no incentive for Republicans to broker an agreement that could dilute their tough-on-crime bona fides.
It’s worth noting today’s actions also exclude new regulations on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines or liabilities for gun manufacturers who enjoy Teflon levels of protection from prosecution in most cases. And until Congress acts, background checks are still optional for some gun sales and terrorists can slip through the cracks and buy weapons in the US.
But the administration, from a public safety and political standpoint, is in no position to stand pat. So President Biden is doing what he can with what he has.
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Today in Politics
President Biden this morning will return to the White House from Delaware and receive his daily intelligence briefing. He then will hold a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. After, the president will speak on the administration’s new actions on gun crime. Vice President Harris and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco will also speak.
Biden’s week ahead:
Tuesday: The president will travel to Iowa to promote his economic agenda.
Thursday: Biden will travel to North Carolina to continue pitching his economic agenda.
Vice President Harris this afternoon will also speak on the administration’s new actions on reducing medical debt for American families. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Donald Remy, Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young and the Director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Rohit Chopra will also speak.
First Lady Jill Biden this afternoon will join former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a conversation at the 2022 Clinton Global Initiative University Annual Meeting on community colleges and the future of workforce development.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
Read All About It
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Lara Bazelon on why a mom’s ambition is good for her family:
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Marisa Gerber on faith in the time of COVID-19:
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