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Biden to take executive actions to reduce gun violence

David Lauter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Such programs have had a significant impact in reducing homicides where they’ve been tried, White House officials say.

While waiting for Congress to act on the $5 billion request, the administration will direct more than two dozen federal agencies to look at existing accounts to find money to support such programs.

The administration’s steps drew praise from gun safety groups.

The actions will “begin to make good on President Biden’s promise to be the strongest gun safety president in history,” John Feinblatt, the head of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “In particular, ghost guns allow anyone, anywhere to easily obtain an untraceable firearm, and the Biden administration’s decision to treat them like the deadly weapons they are will undoubtedly save countless lives.”

Biden will also name David Chipman as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the federal agency that regulates guns and gun sales. Chipman, who spent about two decades as an ATF agent, is a senior policy advisor to the advocacy group Giffords, set up by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona after she was shot and severely wounded at an event with constituents.

“There is no one better to lead ATF right now,” the senior administration official said, citing Chipman’s experience with the agency.

Since 2006, when Congress directed that the head of the ATF be subject to Senate confirmation, the NRA and other gun-rights groups have consistently worked to block nominees. The last Senate-confirmed head of the agency, B. Todd Jones, who was named by President Obama, stepped down in 2015, and acting directors have run the agency since, limiting its ability to pursue new programs.


Chipman’s extensive contacts with groups that advocate greater regulation of firearms could assuage some of the complaints that the administration has been slow to move on gun issues.

Those complaints mounted after Biden’s news conference late last month, at which he said: “Successful presidents, better than me, have been successful, in large part, because they know how to time what they’re doing — order it, decide and prioritize what needs to be done.”

Asked about gun control, immigration and other issues, Biden said that “the most urgent problem” was the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.

“The other problems we’re talking about, from immigration to guns and the other things you mentioned, are long-term problems; they’ve been around a long time,” he said.

Through much of his career, Biden has been active on gun control efforts, often boasting of his role in beating the NRA in legislative battles during the Clinton administration, when he was a senator. As vice president under Obama, he took a role in helping craft gun control proposals, most of which stalled on Capitol Hill. But since taking office as president, he has focused heavily on other issues.

Although the House passed two bills last month to close loopholes in the federal background check program, opposition in the Senate has stalled any action. The Senate could take up a more limited bill later this spring that would close one loophole — requiring background checks for weapons sold at gun shows — but even that faces a difficult legislative road.

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