Biden considers regulating ‘ghost weapons’ and other executive actions to curb gun violence

Instead, the White House is likely to stick to campaign promises to support legislation to close Charleston’s legal loophole, as well as measures designed to keep guns away from people believed to be a danger to them. themselves or others and to establish safety storage standards for firearms. according to one of the people familiar with the plans.

“My point of view is that the bigger and bolder the better about preventing gun violence because we have a unique window of opportunity,” Blumenthal said.

However, the desire to grow up and be bolder faces a variety of different political realities, including a split Senate and advocates who disagree on which policies to push and how quickly to do it. Underlining it all is a promise Biden made to act swiftly on weapons after taking office, a promise that seems less likely as the Covid-19 pandemic overshadows everything else.

The White House has held several meetings on gun violence with prominent groups pushing for gun restrictions, community groups asking for billions of dollars in program funding, and survivors of gun violence.

The meetings are chaired by Susan Rice, director of the National Policy Council, and Cedric Richmond, director of the Office of Public Participation. During recent meetings, Richmond shared with advocates that he lost a childhood friend to gun violence, according to three people who were in conversations with the former congressman.

A White House official said Biden is considering “all the tools at our disposal, including executive actions” and is considering investing in community violence programs, requiring background checks, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and repealing the immunity of liability of arms manufacturers. . But Biden still lacks a Senate-confirmed attorney general and a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who will play a key role in any executive branch action on weapons.

“During the campaign, the president presented an ambitious plan to keep our communities safe and remains committed to that agenda,” said White House spokesman Mike Gwin.

The discussions come as gun sales soared amid a year of pandemic quarantines, a summer of race riots and Biden’s victory in the presidential election, after promising an aggressive push to reduce gun violence. The year 2020 saw a record number of gun homicides in the United States.

The Biden White House’s approach to gun security groups has been praised by more established organizations. “This administration has what, three weeks [but] it’s the strongest gun safety administration in history, whether it’s the president, vice president or cabinet, ”said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We have full confidence that they will govern like this.”

Advocates affiliated with those groups argue that the scope for action in Congress and elsewhere in the federal government has never been better, in part because public support for the changes has risen steadily after Newtown, Connecticut, and subsequent shootings and shootings. partly due to the implosion of the once powerful National Rifle Association.

“We have changed the state legislatures. We have passed voter referenda. We have seen for the first time in my time in this movement a … Democratic primary in which all the candidates tried to outdo themselves on how much they cared about this issue, “said Christian Hayne, vice president of policy at Brady, a group which supports tighter firearms restrictions. “We anticipate that momentum will continue to build until we get the change we desperately need.”

Biden has a long history of dealing with gun legislation, although his most recent effort ended in notable failure. After Newtown, Connecticut, Obama asked him to push through what he had expected to be the biggest firearm restrictions in decades. But after months of meetings and limited executive action, a bill that required expanded background checks died in the Senate.

The Senate is even less Democratic now, split 50-50, which means any bill would require at least 10 Republicans to vote with all Democrats. And as such, grassroots groups led by youth of color who have survived mass shootings or live in communities that fight daily against gun violence want Biden to use his executive power immediately to close loopholes for gun dealers. .

Some of them are urging the administration to start shelling out money in 40 cities across the country ravaged by gun violence through discretionary agency grants or by declaring a national emergency. Rather than wait for Congress to pass funding on an infrastructure or gun control bill, groups like the March For Our Lives and the Community Justice Action Fund say agencies can and should start allocating funds to community programs now. They fear the administration’s current approach could take weeks, even months, to result in progress, and point out that the long deadlines are at odds with Biden’s promise to act on his first day in office.

“We have incidents where three or four people are shot [daily] and we don’t get the same kind of fuss and attention for those kinds of homicides and mainly because they are black and brown people, ”said Eddie Bocanegra, senior director of the READI Chicago chapter of the progressive Heartland Alliance, who spoke to the White House.

Earlier this month, Heartland was among the coalition of organizations representing communities of color that sent a letter to the Biden administration expressing disappointment that they were not included in a meeting the White House held with more watchdog groups. of arms of the establishment. According to four people who participated in recent meetings, the White House acted quickly to rectify the situation and has since made at least two virtual calls with advocates from groups across the country.

Bocanegra said he was happy with the hearing he received at the White House. But he still expressed frustration that white-led gun control groups seemed to be getting more attention after spending days helping Biden’s transition into politics.

“I want to see my return on that investment,” he said.

Complicating any effort to move gun safety measures, whether through legislation or executive action, is the Covid pandemic. Right now, nearly 2,000 Americans, on average, die every day from the virus. And while the country’s cases and deaths have declined since its January peak, the White House’s top priority remains to control the coronavirus pandemic and distribute economic relief, including a nearly $ 2 trillion Covid-19 bill. that is being approved in Congress.

As the White House focuses its efforts on the pandemic, lawmakers working on gun control have been waiting for signs. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Said he plans to reintroduce his universal background check bill in the next month, although he wants to see a plan from the Biden administration first.

“I don’t think anyone is going to advance strategy without listening to the White House,” said Murphy, who plans to speak with Rice this week.

Murphy himself has said that he supports Biden in using his executive authority to address gun control. But if Democrats are going to pursue legislation, “our best chance of passing a background check proposal is this year. I don’t want to have to wait for a mass shooting.”

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