President Biden will take his first, limited actions on gun control today, directing his administration to tighten restrictions on so-called ghost guns and pistol stabilizing braces that allow the weapons to be used more accurately.
Biden will make the announcement today at 11:45 a.m. ET from the White House alongside his attorney general, Merrick Garland, whose Justice Department will be responsible for drafting the proposed rules.
The steps — which also include nominating a gun control advocate to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — fulfill a commitment Biden made in the aftermath of two deadly shootings last month to take “common sense” steps right away to address gun violence.
But they fall short of the sweeping actions Biden promised as a candidate that must be passed by Congress, including a ban on assault weapons or enacting universal background checks. Senior administration officials framed the upcoming announcements as initial steps that would be followed by additional actions later on, including applying pressure on lawmakers to act.
Here are key things to know about the actions:
- Ghost guns are handmade or self-assembled firearms that don’t have serial numbers. Some can be fabricated in as little as 30 minutes using kits and parts purchased online. Biden will direct the Justice Department to issue a proposed rule to “stop the proliferation” of those weapons, though a senior administration official previewing the step declined to elaborate on how specifically the rule — due in 30 days – might work.
- Another proposed rule would target stabilizing braces for pistols, which aid in the weapons’ accuracy and manage recoil. Under the new rule, the devices — which the senior administration official contended turn pistols into short barreled rifles — would be covered by regulations in the National Firearms Act, including requiring registration. Last month’s mass shooter in Boulder, Colorado, used a pistol modified with an arm brace, according to a law enforcement source.
- Biden also plans to announce new investments in intervention programs in violence-prone communities; a directive to the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” laws for states that allow the temporary removal of guns from people deemed at high risk of harming themselves or others; and a comprehensive report on firearms trafficking.
Some more background: Following last month’s shootings, Biden called on Congress to take steps like re-enacting an assault weapons ban. But he acknowledged during a news conference that his main legislative priority was passing an infrastructure package and that he believed careful timing was key to the success of any proposed bills.
Taken together, the actions amount to the first real steps by Biden’s administration to combat gun violence. While campaigning, Biden had said he would task his attorney general with instituting better enforcement of existing gun laws as a means of slowing gun violence. He also made a campaign pledge to send $900 million for community programs meant to combat violence, something the administration is sorting out how to fulfill.