WASHINGTON – With Congress unlikely to move quickly on guns legislation, the White House is pushing forward plans for a series of executive orders that President Biden is expected to put in place in the coming weeks to keep pressure on the issue.
A day after Mr Biden urged the Senate to pass a ban on assault weapons and step up background checks in response to two mass shootings last week that killed 18 people, White House officials said on Wednesday that the legislation was being passed Gun safety remained a goal; it would take time, given the vehement opposition from the Republicans.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said laws were needed to make permanent changes. But she also suggested that the executive measures under consideration could be a realistic starting point.
“There is of course a lot of leverage that you can use as president and vice president,” she said.
At the moment, administrative officials have reached out to Senate Democrats to discuss three executive actions. One would classify so-called ghost guns as firearms – kits with which a weapon can be assembled from parts. Another would fund community violence intervention programs, and the third would strengthen the background control system, according to congressional assistants familiar with the talks.
The White House attorney’s office was aware that any executive action against guns will come with legal challenges and has also reviewed those actions to ensure they stand up to judicial review.
A White House spokesman declined to comment on the upcoming actions. But Mr Biden is under pressure from weapons security groups to act as quickly as possible.
“If there’s one thing we’ve been into over the past year, inaction costs lives,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence. “It’s not about next week, it’s not about next month, it has to be about today. It has to be right now. “
During his campaign, Mr. Biden, a prominent proponent of the 10-year offensive weapons ban in 1994, promised to enact a general background check law banning all online firearms sales, and the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and magazines to ban high capacity.
But Mr Biden has acknowledged that he doesn’t know what legislation might be possible, even after the recent Atlanta and Boulder shootings. “I haven’t counted yet,” he said Tuesday when asked if he had the political capital to advance gun security measures.
With the National Rifle Association, once the most powerful lobby group in the country, which went bankrupt and spent more money on legal fees than fighting the White House or Congress, Mr Biden could have more room for maneuver.
March 24, 2021, 2:02 p.m. ET
Since the transition, officials in the Biden administration have met regularly with Mr. Feinblatt and other gun control advocates to discuss what actions are possible that do not require the cooperation of Congress.
Ideas they discussed include the Federal Trade Commission, which evaluates gun reports for false or misleading safety claims, the Education Department, which promotes measures to prevent students from gaining access to firearms, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Gunshot wounds must ensure reliable data tracking.
They also discussed whether to make gun violence a public health emergency – a move that would free up more funds that could be used to support community gun violence programs and enforce applicable laws.
“The Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau has funds to inspect the average arms dealer every five years,” said Kris Brown, president of Brady: United Against Gun Violence, a nonprofit group. “We have more arms dealers than Starbucks and McDonald’s.”
Designating gun violence as a public health crisis, Ms. Brown said, would allocate more money to allow for more regular inspections. This is a proposal that has been shared with the Biden transition teams.
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“We also talked about what can be done by agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services to motivate the health community to focus on preventive measures that can stop gun violence before it starts,” Ms. Brown said .
At the moment, one of the government’s greatest efforts has been to classify “ghost rifles” as firearms. Such a classification would require that they be serialized and subjected to background checks.
The government has also spoken to Democratic senators about its upcoming plans to fund community-based violence intervention programs. How much money is still up for debate?
During the campaign, Mr. Biden pledged to launch an eight-year $ 900 million initiative to fund evidence-based interventions in 40 cities across the country.
“There are programs in this country that do a proven job,” Ms. Brown said. “But they are drastically underfunded. We want a $ 5 billion investment in such violence intervention programs across the country. “
White House officials described a “robust interagency process” but said the proposed executive action was still ongoing.
While there are no plans for impending legislative pressure on guns from a White House dealing with crises on multiple fronts, Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris continued to call legislative action imperative.
“I am not ready to give up what we must do to speak to the hearts and minds and cause of the members of the United States Senate,” Ms. Harris said in an interview with CBS This Morning on Wednesday.
“It is time for Congress to act and stop making wrong decisions,” she said. “This is not about getting rid of the second amendment. The point is simply to say that we need adequate gun safety laws. There is no reason why we have assault weapons on the streets of a civil society. They are weapons of war. They are supposed to kill a lot of people quickly. “