WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden, in his first gun control measures since taking office, announced a half-dozen executive actions Thursday aimed at addressing a proliferation of gun violence across the nation that he called an “epidemic and an international embarrassment.”
“The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation,” Biden said during remarks at the White House.
He announced he is tightening regulations for buyers of “ghost guns” — homemade firearms that usually are assembled from parts and often lack serial numbers used to trace them. Also, a proposed rule, expected within 60 days, will tighten regulations on pistol-stabilizing braces like the one used in Boulder, Colorado, in a shooting last month that left 10 dead.
On Thursday, family members whose children were killed at the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, school massacre in 2012 and the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 attended the hearing. Biden thanked them for attending, saying he understood it would remind them of the awful days when they got the calls.
Biden’s Thursday announcement delivers on a pledge the president made last month to take what he termed immediate “common-sense steps” to address gun violence, after a series of mass shootings drew renewed attention to the issue. His announcement came the same day as yet another, this one in South Carolina, where five people were killed.
Biden emphasized the scope of the problem: Between the mass killings in Atlanta massage businesses and the Colorado grocery store shooting last month, there were more than 850 additional shootings that killed 250 and injured 500 in the US, he said.
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.
Indeed, Biden again urged Congress to act, calling on the Senate to take up House-passed measures closing background check loopholes. He also said Congress should pass the Violence Against Women Act, eliminate legal exemptions for gun manufacturers and ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Biden said
Biden was joined at the event by Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland. Garland said he was “under no illusions about how hard it is to solve the problem of gun violence” and emphasized a need for a “collective effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and save lives.”
The Justice Department cannot solve the problem by itself, he said, but “there is work for the department to do, and we intend to do it.”