WASHINGTON — Gun violence is out of control and action needs to be taken to reduce it, President Biden said Thursday.
“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment,” said Biden. “And it has to stop.”
During a speech in the White House Rose Garden, the president announced a series of six actions that his administration was taking to combat gun violence:
Developing a model “red flag” law. The Justice Department must publish model “red flag” legislation for states within 60 days; these laws allow family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order temporarily barring people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others. “States that have red flag laws have seen a reduction in the number of suicides in their states,” said Biden. In addition, “we know red flag laws can have significant effects in protecting women from domestic violence. And we know red flag laws can stop mass shooters, before they can act out their violent plans.”
Investing in evidence-based community violence interventions. “There are proven strategies that reduce gun violence in urban communities, and these programs have demonstrated that they can reduce homicides by up to 60% in urban communities,” said Biden. “But many of these have been badly underfunded or not funded at all.”
Gun violence costs the nation an estimated $280 billion annually when hospital bills, physical therapy, trauma counseling, legal fees, prison costs, and the loss of productivity are taken into account, “and for a fraction of the cost of gun violence, we can save lives, create safe and healthy communities, and build economies that work for all of us.”
Biden is directing five federal agencies to make changes to 26 different programs to direct support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible, and the Department of Health and Human Services is organizing a webinar and toolkit to educate states on how they can use Medicaid to reimburse certain community violence intervention programs. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who also spoke in the Rose Garden on Thursday, said the Justice Department “will make available over $1 billion in funding through over a dozen grant programs that can be used to support evidence-based intervention strategies for reducing gun violence,” such as street outreach violence interrupters and hospital-based violence intervention services.
The administration also has asked the NIH to “prioritize community-based intervention research for its Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention Research grant awards,” according to a White House fact sheet. “These programs will provide $12.5 million to improve understanding of the determinants of firearm injury, those most at risk (including both victims and perpetrators), and strategies to prevent firearm injury and mortality.”
Reducing proliferation of “ghost guns.” Biden ordered the Justice Department to propose a rule within 30 days to cut down use of these guns, which are made from kits that criminals can buy; these guns can be constructed in 30 minutes and often can’t be traced because they have no serial numbers. “The buyers aren’t required to pass the background check to buy the kit to make the gun,” the president noted. “Consequently, anyone, from a criminal to a terrorist, can buy this kit, and in as little as 30 minutes, put together a weapon. I want to see these kits treated as firearms under the Gun Control Act, which is going to require that the seller and manufacturers make the key parts with serial numbers and run background checks on the buyers when they walk in to buy that package.”
Regulating use of short-barreled rifles. The president ordered the Justice Department to propose a rule within 60 days that will “make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act,” according to the White House fact sheet. During his speech, Biden noted that the National Firearms Act “requires that a potential owner pay a $200 fee and submit their name and other identifying information to the Justice Department, just as you would if they went out and purchased a silencer for a gun.”
Reporting on firearms trafficking. In 2000, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) issued a report summarizing information regarding its investigations into firearm trafficking, but it has not been updated. “Today with online sales and ghost guns, times and trafficking methods have changed, and we have to adjust,” said Biden. “We also have to ask the Justice Department to release a new annual report. This report will better help policymakers address firearm trafficking as it is today, not what it was yesterday.”
Nominating an ATF director. The ATF has not had a confirmed director since 2015, the White House noted. Biden’s nominee, David Chipman, served at ATF for 25 years and now works to advance gun safety laws.
Biden also chided Congress for not doing more on the issue. “They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress, but they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence,” he said. “Enough prayers. Time for some action.”
He urged the Senate to immediately pass three bills already passed by the House to force more gun purchasers to undergo background checks: one bill requires background checks for anyone purchasing a gun at a gun show or online; another gets rid of a loophole that allows people to purchase guns if a background check isn’t completed in 3 days; and a third would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which closes the “boyfriend and stalker loophole” that allows people to continue owning guns even if they’ve been found by the court to be an abuser and a continuing threat.
“This is not a partisan issue among American people,” he added. “I’m willing to work with anyone to get this done. It’s long past time that we act.”