By Sean McQuown
In response to a growing number of mass shooting incidents, President Joe Biden discussed his plan to take executive actions against acts of gun violence in a speech in the Rose Garden on April 8. Biden called on members of Congress to join him in his efforts to bring gun control laws.
“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and it’s an international embarrassment,” Biden said with a slew of mass shootings in the country’s recent memory — the March 16 Atlanta shooting where eight people lost their lives and the March 22 shooting in Boulder, Colo. where 10 people were killed.
Biden also discussed another shooting which occurred the day before. This particular shooting took place in South Carolina on April 7. The shooter killed five people that day and wounded another who would die from his injuries just a few days later.
Among the victims were a doctor, his wife and two of their grandchildren. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was present in the Rose Garden, later said in his own speech that gun violence has taken the lives of an estimated 11,000 Americans in just this year alone.
In order to help solve what he called a “public health crisis,” Biden discussed his initial plan of action that he could begin implementing without the help of Congress:
The first step in the president’s plan is to crack down on the sale of “ghost guns,” which are kits for building homemade guns. According to Biden, the parts in these kits do not come with serial numbers and cannot be traced. Buyers also aren’t required to pass a background check to buy the kits, meaning even those deemed unfit to use a firearm can still easily assemble one on their own.
Biden said he intends to have these “ghost guns” treated as firearms under the Gun Control Act, which will require manufacturers to include serial numbers for key parts and make it so that buyers have to undergo background checks before they can purchase the product.
Biden also promised to have the Department of Justice release a new and up-to-date annual report on gun trafficking. This would help law enforcement officials make sure that weapons won’t fall into the wrong hands. Biden also nominated David Chipman to serve as the director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. According to NPR, Chipman is a veteran of the Bureau. He served as a special agent at the Bureau for 25 years before he became a senior policy advisor at Giffords, an organization advocating for stricter gun laws.
Biden said that he plans to make it easier for states to adopt their own red flag laws. These will enable police officers and family members to petition their local courts to remove all firearms from the possession of someone deemed to be a danger to themselves or those around them.
Biden said that none of the reforms he hopes to implement, both now and in the future, would infringe on Second Amendment rights in any way. Biden proposed that enacting gun control laws would not only save lives, but also greatly reduce the financial costs caused by gun violence, explaining the economic costs of gun violence have reached $280,000,000,000 a year due to factors such as medical bills, physical therapy bills, treatment for mental trauma, legal fees, prison fees and drops in overall work productivity.
“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 said.
While these measures might be seen as a good first step within the Biden Administration, some argue that there are more effective ways to prevent gun violence. David Mazeika, an assistant professor of criminology at the College, saw the merits behind several of Biden’s proposals, but that his new executive orders “only nibble at the larger problem.” Mazeika recognizes the danger presented by untraceable ghost guns and supports the idea of encouraging states to create their own red flag laws so that they can keep firearms out of the hands of clearly dangerous individuals.
Mazeika said that several factors can lead to an escalation in gun violence, such as a lack of sustainable employment opportunities in lower income communities, or a lack of faith in the police and the justice system.
Mazeika has found that many young people in communities most affected by gun violence actually carry weapons because they do not believe the police will protect them and think that they have no choice but to protect themselves. According to Mazeika, taking steps to improve the living conditions in these communities so that citizens feel more financially secure and protected would likely do far more to stop the spread of gun violence in the long run than Biden’s new executive orders.
Despite his desire for more comprehensive gun control legislation, Biden admits that major reforms, such as enforcing universal background checks and passing an assault weapons ban, will require the support of Congress. During his speech, Biden called upon the members of Congress to stand up and take decisive action against gun violence.
“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,” Biden said. “Enough prayers. Time for some action.”
Many American citizens appear to be in favor of gun control laws as well. A recent USA Today poll taken after the shootings in Georgia and Colorado shows that while Republican support for gun control has fallen from 54% to 35% since 2019, 65% of Americans overall still support the idea of gun control reforms.
Biden has expressed willingness to work with everyone in Congress. Many of his allies in the Democratic party have praised his first steps toward stronger gun control laws and believe that more significant reforms are not far off. One of these allies is Cedric Richmond, a senior advisor to Biden and the director of the office of public engagement. During an interview with “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Richmond said that he believes it won’t be long before the will of the American people brings about real progress with Congress.
“People of America are tired of the carnage,” Richmond said. “They’re tired of the games, and I think that if they have their way, they will vote and fight for a more just and safe America.”