April 23, 2021

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Gun control legislation or executive orders? Here’s what President Biden is considering

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WASHINGTON — After two deadly shootings in under a week in Atlanta, and Boulder, Colorado, rocked the nation, President Joe Biden is facing questions about what actions he will support to increase gun control.

On March 16, a gunman in Georgia killed eight people, six of whom were Asian American women, as the nation sees an uptick in racist attacks toward Asian Americans. Then on Monday, a man in Boulder killed 10 people, including one police officer, when he opened fire at a grocery store.

Democrats are calling for the expansion of background checks, and Biden has pushed for the Senate to pass gun legislation already passed by the House. But he’s also being asked about whether he’ll also introduce gun control legislation or take issue executive orders.

More:As Democrats press for national gun control, GOP states move to expand firearm access

Here’s where he stands: 

Biden calls for passing background check legislation

The president said he wants the Senate to take up and pass two bills that were previously passed by the House that would impact background check laws in the country. 

The first, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, would expand background checks on firearm sales, closing a gun show and online sales loophole. It passed the House with the support of eight Republicans, while one Democrat voted against it. 

The second piece of legislation, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, would close another loophole dubbed the “Charleston loophole,” which allows gun sales to proceed without a completed background check if three business days have passed, by extending the background check review period from three days to 10. The loophole is named because it is linked to the 2015 shooting in Charleston during which a white supremacist was able to obtain firearms that killed Black churchgoers.

“These are bills that received votes with both Republicans and Democrats in the House. This is not and should not be a partisan issue. This is an American issue that will save lives, American lives. And we have to act,” Biden said. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday what the administration is “looking at now is what is the legislation that’s out there, are there any gaps that need to be filled, policies or proposals that have been introduced in the past that could be reintroduced.”

Biden: Ban assault weapons

The president also voiced support for a ban on assault weapons on Tuesday.

“We should also ban assault weapons in the process,” Biden said, referring to legislative action in Congress. 

He hearkened back to a law he helped pass as a Delaware senator in 1994 that banned the manufacturing of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for civilian use. The law phased out 10 years later, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., have introduced a new bill that would revive the ban.

“It was the law for the longest time. And it brought down these mass killings. We should do it again,” Biden said.

Where the White House stands on executive action

Psaki said on Tuesday that Biden was considering all options open to him on working toward gun control, “including working through legislations, including executive actions,” without elaborating on what that could entail. Then on Wednesday, Psaki said the White House is focused on action it can take through the legislative route of Congress, and did not mention executive action.

“I don’t have anything to predict … on whether there’d be something independent. I think we’re looking at what a number of passionate gun safety advocates on the Hill have already introduced to see where we can help push the boulder on that,” Psaki said.

‘Public health crisis’:Senators debate how to stop gun violence in the wake of Boulder shooting

Psaki pushed back on the right-wing narrative that Democrats are seeking to overturn the Second Amendment, maintaining that the administration’s focus is on “common sense measures” to make communities safer.

“No one is talking about overturning or changing the Second Amendment,” she said. The majority of the American public supports background checks, the majority of the American public does not believe that anyone needs to have an assault weapon.”

Advocates push for executive orders

Gun-safety-law advocates, however, have been in touch with the Biden White House and advocate the use of certain executive actions they say would make communities safer from gun violence. 

“The Biden administration is the strongest in history on gun safety, and now is the time when they need to govern like it. There’s an epidemic of gun violence within the pandemic –– and with executive actions, we can start saving lives today,” said John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

Everytown has advocated for Biden to take executive action on expanding background checks to include so-called “ghost guns,” which are typically homemade and lack trackable serial numbers. Background checks could include kits and components used to build ghost guns.

Domestic policy adviser Susan Rice and White House public engagement director and senior adviser Cedric Richmond also met with gun violence prevention advocates in February. According to a White House statement, they discussed “closing background check loopholes, stopping the proliferation of unregulated and untraceable ‘ghost’ guns, and expanding community-based violence intervention programs.”

Contributing: Courtney Subramanian, Matthew Brown

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