Biden plans to crack down on 'ghost guns' with action on Thursday
By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) President Joe Biden will unveil his administration's first steps on Thursday to curb gun violence, including a plan to reduce the proliferation of "ghost weapons" after a series of mass shootings pressured him to act.
Biden will announce that the Department of Justice intends to enact a proposed rule within 30 days to reduce the proliferation of undetectable, self-assembled "ghost rifles," a White House official told reporters. The details of the rule were not immediately clear.
The department will also issue proposed rules within 60 days clarifying that devices marketed as "stabilizing struts" that effectively turn pistols into rifles are subject to the National Firearms Act, which requires firearms to be registered, the official said.
Other measures include investing in community violence prevention, the planned publication of a model "red flag" law that states can use to create their own versions, and plans for a Justice Department report on the arms trade. The red flag laws allow courts and local law enforcement agencies to remove weapons from people who are believed to be a risk to communities.
Gun control is a controversial issue in the United States that has seen significant numbers of deadly mass shootings in schools and other public places for decades. The second amendment to the US Constitution protects the right to bear arms.
The government has been working for months on gun control measures that would limit gun violence without starting a lawsuit that could result in courts quickly dismantling guidelines.
The official said Biden would continue to advocate the legislation and cited the government's planned measures as first steps on Thursday.
"The president will not wait for Congress to act before the administration takes our own steps to save lives," she said.
The recent mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado have put pressure on the White House to act independently. Legislation is unlikely to go through Congress quickly.
The top Republican in the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, criticized Biden's move.
"President Biden plans to announce his attempts to trample our constitutional 2A rights through Executive Fiat," McCarthy said in a tweet. "It is crime-friendly, but violates the rights of law-abiding citizens."
The proposal is also likely to face legal challenges. The National Rifle Association (NRA) said in a statement it would combat Biden's executive actions.
"Biden has made it clear that his goal is to restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners, to ignore criminals and to forego substantial measures that actually ensure the safety of Americans," said spokeswoman Amy Hunter.
It will force Americans to give up guns and states to enforce seizure orders, Hunter added.
The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has indicated that more than 30% of the illegal weapons it has seized in some areas of California are "ghost weapons" that are not currently regulated as firearms, for which background checks are required.
Biden had chosen David Chipman, a former ATF special agent, to be the agency's director, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. Gun control activists and some of Biden's fellow Democrats in Congress had asked the White House to nominate someone for the post.
Chipman is an advisor to Giffords, a gun violence prevention organization led by former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011.
The NRA said it would speak out against Chipman's nomination.
The list of initiatives to be released on Thursday omits a number of Biden's election pledges, many of which require action by Congress, including opening gun manufacturers to lawsuits for murders committed with their guns, banning offensive weapons altogether and background checks for most gun sales.
Biden had also promised other measures he could take unilaterally, such as banning the import of assault weapons, as well as proposals to reform the ATF and the federal weapons security background check system within his first 100 days in office period, which ended on April 30 ends.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose; Editing by Howard Goller, Rosalba O'Brien, Peter Cooney and Karishma Singh)
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