• MLWA 7

Biden announces executive actions to curb gun "epidemic" in the U.S. Mostly addressing "ghost guns"

- Washington D.C., USA

Amid a recent rash of gun violence, President Joe Biden took executive action on gun reform Thursday, including placing new restrictions on pistol modification and nominating an anti-gun advocate to helm the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

Biden’s actions are significant but address only a very small part of America’s enormous gun problem. Instead, they represent an effort by the White House to use the limited tools the president has, given the difficulties in passing new gun legislation through Congress, to make some progress toward reform.

As Vox’s German Lopez has explained, part of the problem is that the US has a lot of guns — more than 120 per 100 people — and those guns are used: The US has about 16 times as many gun homicides per 1 million people as Germany, and it averages one mass shooting (defined as an event in which there are at least four victims, including the shooter) per day.

Those mass shootings have been especially prominent of late. Five people were killed in a shooting Wednesday in Rock Hill, South Carolina, while two people were killed and another two injured in Milwaukee. These violent incidents follow dozens of others in the past month, including a mass shooting targeting Asian-owned Atlanta-area spas that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. Less than a week later, 10 people were killed in a shooting at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket.

Biden’s executive actions directly address one of those shootings. The Boulder shooter used a pistol modification known as a stabilizing brace, which aids in accuracy and minimizes backward impact. Under the new regulations, pistols with the brace need to be registered with the federal government and will require a more detailed application process.

“There’s no reason someone needs a weapon of war with 100 rounds, 100 bullets, that can be fired from that weapon,” Biden said while announcing the executive orders Thursday. “Nobody needs that.”

The new orders will not, however, affect the sale of assault weapons like the one used in Atlanta and the 2019 Dayton shooting, nor will they close loopholes that allow buyers to escape background checks online or at gun shows. That’s notable because a fifth of all guns sold to buyers don’t require a background check, according to the Giffords Law Center, a national advocate for gun control and firearms restrictions.

There are currently bills that would close this loophole that have passed the House of Representatives and are waiting for a vote in the Senate. There seems little chance of them passing, given Democrats — who broadly support gun reform — don’t have the numbers necessary to do so.

Congress stagnating on gun reform is notable given how popular changing gun policy is with the public: Polling from Giffords and Everytown, another gun control advocacy firm, found that 93 percent of Americans, including 64 percent of Republicans, are in favor of background checks on all gun sales. As the country, largely united in its support for gun legislation, waits for a stagnant Congress to pass meaningful reforms, Biden has now acted unilaterally — his reforms aren’t broad, but they are what is within his power to do.

What’s in Biden’s executive actions on gun control

The president’s new policies attempt to do two things: limit the availability of certain weapons and encourage states to enact gun control legislation on their own. Here’s what Biden implemented Thursday:

  • Stopping the sale of “ghost guns:” Ghost guns are handmade firearms sold in kits or 3D printed, meaning they don’t come with a serial number and the government has no ability to trace them. Biden wants to curtail their use, man