Washington, Apr 9 (PTI) Declaring the spike in gun violence in the US an 'epidemic' and an 'international embarrassment,' President Joe Biden has outlined actions to regulate certain home-made firearms and pressed Congress to renew the country's long-expired ban on assault weapons.
Under mounting pressure to act after a spate of mass shootings across America, Biden on Thursday said that whether Congress acts or not, he was going to use all the resources at his disposal as President to keep the American people safe from gun violence.
Biden said members of Congress have offered plenty of thoughts and prayers but they have passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence. 'Enough prayers. Time for some action,' Biden said at the White House Rose Garden in the presence of Vice President Kamala Harris, lawmakers and advocates for stricter gun laws.
Hours after Biden's address, a gunman killed one person and injured five others at a cabinet-making shop in Texas. A state trooper was also shot and injured while taking the suspect into custody.
On Wednesday, five people, including two young children, killed in South Carolina.
The fact that so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a 'blemish on our character as nation,' the president said.
'Every day in this country, 316 people are shot. Every single day. A hundred and six of them die every day. Our flag was still flying at half-staff for the victims of the horrific murder of 8 primarily Asian American people in Georgia when 10 more lives were taken in a mass murder in Colorado,' he said.
But between those two incidents, less than one week apart, there were more than 850 additional shootings that took the lives of more than 250 people, and left 500 injured, he said.
'This is an epidemic, for God's sake. And it has to stop.' 'Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it's an international embarrassment,' the president said.
Biden asked the Justice Department to issue a proposed rule to “stop the proliferation” of what law enforcement officials call 'ghost guns' — which can be assembled at home from kits and contain no serial numbers.
Such self-assembled firearms that don't have serial numbers makes it difficult for police to track their owners when the weapons are used to commit crimes.
The Justice Department has been directed to draft rules regulating stabilising braces that make make AR-15 pistols, which are generally subject to fewer regulations than rifles, more stable and accurate. Experts say the stabilising braces give shooters more accuracy and help to manage recoil as they position them on their shoulders before firing.
Police say such a weapon, effectively a short-barrelled rifle, was used in the Colorado mass killing.
The Justice Department has also been asked to draft a 'red flag law' which states can then use to create their own legislation. These laws authorise the courts and law enforcement to remove guns from people thought to be a risk to the community.
Biden also announced that he is planning to nominate David Chipman, a former federal firearms agent and adviser at the gun control group Giffords, to lead the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Chipman was a veteran agent at the agency where he took part in the investigations of bombings at New York’s World Trade Center and a federal building in Oklahoma City in the 1990s.
Democratic Party lawmakers have long called for tighter gun regulations while Republicans have voiced their ardent support for Second Amendment gun ownership rights.
President Biden, a Democrat, said his plans do not impinge on the rights of Americans under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to own a gun.
After every high-profile mass shooting incident, American lawmakers have talked about gun violence but failed to agree on measures to curb it. The US banned the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004, but the law was not renewed when it expired.
'There’s no reason someone needs a weapon of war with 100 rounds, 100 bullets that can be fired from that weapon. Nobody needs that,' Biden said.
'We got that done when I was a United States senator. It wasn't easy going up against the gun lobby, but it saved lives. And we should also eliminate gun manufacturers from the immunity they received from Congress,' the president said.
'I know it’s painful and frustrating that we haven't made the progress that we'd hoped for.
'No matter how long it takes, we’re going to get these passed. We’re not going to give up. We have an opportunity to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to keep our people safe. And in the process, we can show the world and show ourselves that democracy works, that we can come together and get big things done,' Biden said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, said Biden’s moves would “trample over” the constitutional right to bear arms.
“He is soft on crime but infringes on the rights of law-abiding citizens. I won’t stand for it. And neither will House Republicans. Follow the Constitution!” McCarthy tweeted.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), a major gun rights group, said it will fight Biden’s executive actions.
'These actions could require Americans to surrender lawful property, push states to expand confiscation orders, and put a gun control lobbyist to head ATF.
'Biden is dismantling the 2nd Amendment. It's time to STAND and FIGHT!' the NRA tweeted.
John Feinblatt, president of the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, praised Biden's moves, particularly on ghost guns, saying that will “undoubtedly save countless lives.” PTI AKJ AKJ