President Joe Biden announced six executive actions today aimed at addressing gun violence in America. The White House is calling the issue a public health epidemic.
Steps taken by the Biden-Harris Administration come amid daily gun violence that’s leaving trauma nationwide. Last month alone, there were mass shootings in Colorado that killed 10 people, and in Georgia, eight were slain, including six women of Asian descent.
Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, cities across the country are experiencing a historic spike in homicides.
“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,” said Biden, speaking from the White House on Thursday morning.
Joining the president in the Rose Garden was Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland. Elected officials at the event included: Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Several parents of children killed in school shootings, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and a host of anti-gun violence advocates were also among those in attendance.
The White House said the administration is committed to taking action to reduce all forms of gun violence, including community violence, mass shootings, domestic violence, and suicide by firearm.
Biden said the Justice Department will enact a series of actions within the next 30 to 60 days.
They include a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of “ghost guns,” or homemade guns often made from easy to assemble kits. When these firearms turn up at crime scenes, they often cannot be traced by law enforcement due to the lack of a serial number.
The White House also said the Justice Department will publish model “red flag” legislation for states. Red flag 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.
The president’s actions will include broad investments in evidence-based community violence interventions, from school safety to hospital-based programs and more. Multiple federal agencies will be involved.
More than 41,000 people across America died from gun violence in 2020, by far the highest number in a year on record.
The pain is acute in Black and Brown, high-poverty neighborhoods. Black men make up 6 percent of the U.S. population, but more than 50 percent of gun homicide victims. Black women, Latinx people, and Native Americans are also disproportionately impacted.
Mayor Bowser applauded the president’s actions. In February, her administration launched Building Blocks DC, a comprehensive public health approach to gun violence with a first-of-its-kind Gun Violence Prevention Emergency Operations Center.
“We hear all too frequently about mass shootings in cities and towns across America. But in cities like D.C., every day, we are losing fathers and sons, husbands and boyfriends, mothers and daughters, and beloved community members to gun violence,” Bowser said in a statement. “Families are being destroyed when petty arguments are settled through lethal gun violence, when children are just running into the store for a snack but shot and killed on their way through the door, when a father is driving his children home and a bullet comes through his car window and takes the life of his precious baby, still strapped in his car seat.”
“This is no way for our nation to live,” she added. “At the root of this issue is that Americans cannot live freely if we prioritize the proliferation of firearms over the safety of Americans.”
President Biden also reiterated his call for Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence. Last month, a bipartisan coalition in the House passed two bills to close loopholes in the gun background check system.
The White House said Congress should not only close those loopholes, but go further. That would include closing “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.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she supported the president’s actions.
“Every day, the gun violence epidemic reaches into countless communities, forcing families across America to endure unfathomable pain and anguish,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The gun violence crisis demands immediate, effective and strong action.”