News Analysis Apr 8, 2021 6:32 AM EST

Biden administration releases initiative on 'gun violence public health epidemic'

The Biden-Harris Administration announced six initial actions to address what they call the "the gun violence public health epidemic" on Wednesday.

Biden administration releases initiative on 'gun violence public health epidemic'
Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA
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As gun sales soar across the US, the Biden administration has announced six initial actions to address what they term "the gun violence public health epidemic." The effort comes after two high-profile mass shootings, and a year which saw the rate of violent crime skyrocket across the US.

In a Fact Sheet, the administration laid out the recent "historic spike in homicides… violence that disproportionately impacts [b]lack and brown Americans."

The statement said that Biden wants Congress to act on these issues, but that if they fail to do so, "this Administration will not wait for Congress to act to take its own steps–fully within the Administration's authority and the Second Amendment–to save lives."

The administration announced six initial actions to curb gun violence:

1. "Ghost guns"

Homemade guns, so called "ghost guns," do not have serial numbers because they are not manufactured. This means they are untraceable. The administration said that "The Justice Department will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of these firearms."

2. Rules on "stabilizing braces"

The Biden administration said that the shooter in the recent mass shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, used a "pistol with an arm brace, which can make a firearm more stable and accurate while still being concealable." To counteract this, "The Justice Department, within 60 days, will issue a proposed rule to 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."

3. "Red flag" legislation

The Biden administration asks Congress to pass a law that allows "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." This means that is someone thinks another person could be dangerous if they were to purchase a gun, that concerned person could ask a court to prevent the individual from buying one. The administration further asked states to pass these laws, and said that the Justice Department has "published model legislation will make it easier for states that want to adopt red flag laws to do so."

They called on Congress to close "loopholes" in the gun background check system, including "boyfriend" and stalking loopholes that "currently allow people found by the courts to be abusers to possess firearms, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, repealing gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability, and investing in evidence-based community violence interventions."

4. Investment in "evidence-based community violence interventions"

$5 billion from the recently proposed $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan will go toward helping people find jobs over eight years. "A key part of community violence intervention strategies is to help connect individuals to job training and job opportunities," the administration states.

A webinar and toolkit will be created under the US Department of Health and Human Services to show states how to use federal Medicaid funds to "reimburse certain community violence intervention programs, like Hospital-Based Violence Interventions."

Using funds from five different agencies while waiting for Congress to fund "community violence interventions" is also part of the plan. These agencies would make changes to 26 different programs to direct support to community violence.

5. Firearms trafficking data collection

The last report issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was in 2000, and this will be a reissue, including the past 20 years of the state of illegal gun trafficking in the US. "The Justice Department will issue a new, comprehensive report on firearms trafficking and annual updates necessary to give policymakers the information they need to help address firearms trafficking today."

6. Nomination of David Chipman to lead ATF

The announcement concluded by stating that the President will nominate David Chipman to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Chipman has been an advocate for gun control for a number of years. "As a former ATF special agent with more than 24 years of experience at the bureau, I know all too well how serious our gun violence problem is and how desperately the agency lacks for the law enforcement tools that are necessary to help curb this national epidemic," Chipman wrote in a 2013 Politico piece.

The National Rifle Association released a statement in response, "These actions could require law-abiding citizens to surrender lawful property, and push states to expand gun confiscation orders."

Vice President Kamala Harris as a candidate, contributed to the summer of civil unrest by advocating for the Minnesota Freedom Fund which posted bail for rioters in Minnesota including Thomas Moseley. According to Fox News, Moseley had been arrested and released in cases involving allegations that included damaging a police precinct in August and rioting in December. He was arrested again on Jan. 27, just 22 days after his latest release and ironically, was suspected of trying to illegally purchase a gun.

Though the administration claimed to be seeking evidence-based community violence interventions, it made only passing mention of suicide by firearm the leading type of gun death in the United States.

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