“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. We say it again, gun violence in this country is an epidemic,” Biden said at a White House event to announce the executive actions, in the presence of survivors of gun violence and relatives of victims.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday announced limited gun control reforms through six actions in the aftermath of three deadly mass shootings — including the killing of Asian Americans in Atlanta and shoppers at a grocery store in Colorado in recent months — calling the divisive issue an “epidemic and an international embarrassment”.
“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. We say it again, gun violence in this country is an epidemic,” Biden said at a White House event to announce the executive actions, in the presence of survivors of gun violence and relatives of victims. “And it’s an international embarrassment,” he added.
The Justice Department will be required to propose a rule within the next 30 days to stop the proliferation of “ghost guns” that are bought in parts and can be assembled into a weapon within 30 minutes, according to one of the actions.
The next will ask the Justice Department to announce a rule that will subject stabilisation braces, which can turn pistols into mini rifles, to registration under the more stringent National Firearms Act. Authorities say the suspect in the Boulder, Colorado, shootings last month — in which 10 people were killed — used a pistol with an arm brace that made the weapon more stable and accurate.
The Justice Department will also be required to publish a model “red flag” legislation for states, allowing for a person to be denied access to firearms if petitioned by family members or police. The remaining two actions called for increased investment in evidence-based community violence intervention and the publication of an annual report on firearm trafficking, which has not been done since 2000.
But Thursday’s announcement underscores the limitations of Biden’s executive power to act on guns. His orders tighten regulations on homemade guns and provide more resources for gun-violence prevention but fall far short of the sweeping gun-control agenda he laid out on the campaign trail.
These actions also do not address the issue of assault rifles, which have been used most commonly in mass shootings in the US.
The President is backing a legislation passed recently by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives that seeks to expand background checks for gun deals, cover transactions made on the internet, and close certain loopholes in the current laws.
He called for the passage of the bill on Thursday.
“This is not a partisan issue among the American people,” Biden insisted.
“Every day in this country 360 people are shot, every single day 106 of them die, every day,” Biden said, reeling off numbers. “Our flag was still flying at half-staff for the victims of the horrific murder, primarily Asian American people in Georgia … 10 more lives were taken in a mass murder in Colorado.”
A gunman last month killed eight people, including six Asian women, at spas during a string of shootings in the Atlanta area.
“You probably didn’t hear between those points in less than one week apart more than 850 additional shootings; 850, that took the lives of more than 250 people and left 500 injured. This is an epidemic, for God’s sake, and it has to stop,” he said.
While Biden asserted that he’s “willing to work with anyone to get it done,” gun control measures face slim prospects in an evenly divided Senate, where Republicans remain near-unified against most proposals.
Biden announced the measures alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and Merrick Garland, who Biden said would prioritise gun violence as head of the Department of Justice.
“We’ve had more tragedy than we can bear,” Harris said, adding: “People on both sides of the aisle want action …. So all that is left is the will and the courage to act.”
The US has experienced a significant number of deadly mass shootings at schools and other public venues for decades. Nearly 40,000 Americans die each year from shootings.
The US Constitution’s Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, and state attempts to limit who can buy guns or how they can carry them have been challenged in court by pro-gun lobby groups.