WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday will announce six immediate actions for the federal government to address the “public health epidemic” of gun violence in America, senior administration officials said Wednesday.
While the White House has repeatedly emphasized the need for Congress to take legislative action on guns, Biden has faced increasing pressure to act after a spate of mass shootings across the U.S. in recent weeks.
The executive orders will include, according to White House officials:
- The Department of Justice (DOJ) must propose a rule to stop the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns” within 30 days
- The DOJ must propose a rule to classify stabilizing braces as subject to the National Firearms Act within 60 days
- The DOJ must conduct a review and provide models of possible red-flag legislation to state and local lawmakers within 60 days
- The DOJ must conduct a comprehensive report on firearms trafficking in the United States
- Investment in evidence-based community violence intervention
- Nominating David Chipman to serve as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
“We know that Americans are dying from gun violence, every single day in this country,” a senior administration official said. “That’s why we are pursuing an agenda that will address not only mass shootings, but also community violence that is proportionately affecting black and brown Americans, domestic violence, and suicide by firearm.”
Biden is expected to announce tighter regulations requiring buyers of so-called “ghost guns” to undergo background checks. The homemade firearms — often assembled from parts and milled with a metal-cutting machine — often lack serial numbers used to trace them. It’s legal to build a gun in a home or a workshop and there is no federal requirement for a background check.
Thursday’s mandates from the White House are only “initial actions,” senior administration officials said Wednesday, implying Biden still supports additional measures from lawmakers.
But gun control measures face slim prospects in an evenly-divided Senate, where Republicans stand opposed to most proposals – despite the House passing legislation to expand background checks last month.
Biden’s planned nomination of Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives may signal a more forceful position on gun control from the White House. Should his nomination be approved, Chipman – a longtime gun control advocate and former federal agent – will be the agency’s first permanent director since 2015.
The bureau falls under the purview of the Department of Justice, and as of 2019 had over 5,000 employees with an operational budget of $1.317 billion.
Should he be confirmed, Chipman would oversee the special agents and investigators tasked with preventing federal crimes, including the unlawful possession of firearms and explosives; tax evasion relating to alcohol and tobacco products; acts of arson, and the illegal sale of certain commercial goods.
Chipman himself is a veteran of the agency, having served for 25 years as a special agent working on firearms trafficking cases, preventing gun homicides, and more.
A senior administration official said there is “no one better to lead ATF right now,” citing his work with investigations into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing. “He will help the federal government better enforce our gun laws, while respecting the Second Amendment.”
He currently serves as the senior policy adviser at Giffords, a gun control group advocacy group led by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
According to a biography on the Giffords foundation site, one of Chipman’s areas of expertise is in “ghost guns,” a problem the Biden administration aims to address in Thursday’s spate of executive orders.
The homemade firearms — often assembled from parts and milled with a metal-cutting machine — often lack serial numbers used to trace them. It’s legal to build a gun in a home or a workshop and there is no federal requirement for a background check.
During his campaign, Biden promised to prioritize new gun control measures as president, including enacting universal background check legislation, banning online sales of firearms and the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But gun-control advocates have said that while they were heartened by signs from the White House that they took the issue seriously, they’ve been disappointed by the lack of early action.
Biden himself expressed uncertainty late last month when asked if he had the political capital to pass new gun control proposals, telling reporters, “I haven’t done any counting yet.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last month, however, that executive actions on guns were coming as well, calling them “one of the levers that we can use” to address gun violence.
For years, federal officials have been sounding the alarm about an increasing black market for homemade, military-style semi-automatic rifles and handguns. Ghost guns have increasingly turned up at crime scenes and in recent years have been turning up more and more when federal agents are purchasing guns in undercover operations from gang members and other criminals.
It is hard to say how many are circulating on the streets, in part because in many cases police departments don’t even contact the federal government about the guns because they can’t be traced.
Some states, like California, have enacted laws in recent years to require serial numbers be stamped on ghost guns.
The critical component in building an untraceable gun is what is known as the lower receiver, a part typically made of metal or polymer. An unfinished receiver — sometimes referred to as an “80-percent receiver” — can be legally bought online with no serial numbers or other markings on it, no license required.
A gunman who killed his wife and four others in Northern California in 2017 who had been prohibited from owning firearms built his own to skirt the court order before his rampage. And in 2019, a teenager used a homemade handgun to fatally shoot two classmates and wound three others at a school in suburban Los Angeles.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.