President Joe Biden is amping up efforts to limit access to firearms through looming executive actions and by nominating an adviser to a prominent gun control group to head a key federal law enforcement agency.
Biden on Thursday will announce new efforts to crack down on "ghost guns," untraceable firearms assembled from parts purchased online. The president will also announce he's nominating David Chipman, a senior adviser to the gun control group Giffords, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, a senior administration official said. The ATF is tasked with enforcing firearms laws.
Nearing three months in office, Biden faces pressure from gun control groups to move on the issue after making it a 2020 campaign priority and following a spate of high-profile shootings, including in Atlanta and Boulder.
In a televised interview last month, days after the Colorado shooting, in which 10 people were killed, including a local on-duty police officer, Vice President Kamala Harris said Congress should make the first move on gun control. While the Biden administration wasn't ruling out unilateral action, she said, the president wanted to find a "lasting" solution that wouldn't be quickly unwound in court.
Marking a shift, the Biden administration will now push legislative and executive actions at the same time, including on ghost guns, the administration official said. The official declined to say if the Justice Department would classify so-called ghost guns as firearms, instead saying the proposed rule would "help stop the proliferation."
Ghost guns are not currently classified as firearms and can therefore be sold legally without serial numbers or background checks.
"Criminals are buying these kits, which contain nearly all of the components and directions for finishing a firearm within as little as 30 minutes, and then using them to commit a crime," the official said.
Last year, Chicago and three other cities sued the federal government to compel the ATF to recast how it classifies firearms and to halt sales of "80% gun" kits.
For the White House to take action, the Justice Department must first go through a 30-day notice-and-comment period before issuing a proposed rule, which is then subject to a comment period before being finalized.
And in nominating Chipman to head the ATF, Biden will ask the Senate to confirm at 25-year veteran over the agency who oversaw its firearms programs. The nomination, however, is anything but assured in a 50-50 Senate, with Harris casting tiebreaking votes. Chipman has previously advocated reinstating a ban on "assault-style weapons" in place from 1994-2004.
In addition, the Justice Department will issue model "red flag" legislation for states that allow courts to take away guns temporarily from people deemed dangerous by a judge, as well as proposed rules targeting stabilizing braces that allow a pistol to be converted into a short-barreled rifle.
Biden, a former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, further will announce investments in community violence intervention programs. That's on top of the $5 billion proposed for that goal in the White House's infrastructure plan.
Five federal agencies will make changes to more than two dozen programs in order to direct resources to community violence intervention programs "as quickly as possible," the official said.
The Justice Department also will issue a new comprehensive report on firearms trafficking, which it hasn't done since 2000.