President Joe Biden announced Thursday that a device allegedly used by the gunman accused of killing 10 people at a Boulder King Soopers last month will be subject to tighter federal regulation, part of a set of executive actions aimed at curbing what he called an "epidemic" of gun violence.
The action, proposed by Boulder's U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, will make pistols used with stabilizing braces subject to the National Firearms Act, which also regulates sawed-off shotguns and silencers, requiring a federal license, a $200 tax and a more thorough application process.
"A stabilizing brace essentially makes the pistol a hell of a lot more accurate and a mini-rifle," Biden said. "As a result, it's more lethal, effectively turning it in to a short-barreled rifle. That's what the alleged shooter in Boulder appears to have done."
The man charged in the March 22 Boulder shooting allegedly used an AR-556 semi-automatic pistol, which was purchased legally, authorities have said. The gun can be made more accurate by using a brace while remaining concealable.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and the White House said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will publish a proposed rule within 60 days.
"Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment," Biden said.
"Enough, enough, enough."
Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, led a letter last week calling for the Biden administration to use its authority to regulate "concealable, assault-style firearms that fire rifle rounds." The letter was signed by more than 100 House Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Arvada, a vice chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.
In a statement, Neguse, one of seven lawmakers who attended Biden's announcement in the White House Rose Garden, said he was "grateful" the administration had included the request in its executive actions.
“The actions that President Biden has announced today will save lives, and are important first-steps in enacting common-sense, gun violence prevention measures,” Neguse said in a statement.
Biden also announced plans to regulate so-called "ghost guns," homemade firearms assembled from parts that lack serial numbers and don't currently require background checks.
The administration also plans to release model "red-flag" legislation to make it easier for states to pass laws similar to the one Colorado has allowing individuals or law enforcement to petition a court so police can confiscate weapons from someone deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
In addition, Biden announced increased funding for programs to attack gun violence in communities and that the Justice Department plans to prepare an annual report on firearms trafficking.
Biden said he is nominating David Chipman, a former federal agent and longtime advisor to the gun control group Giffords, to direct the ATF, which hasn't had a permanent director since 2015.
Said Neguse: "In addition to these steps, it’s critical that the House and the Senate take bold steps to approve comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation. We must do everything we can to stop the epidemic of gun violence and frequent mass shootings that have plagued our nation for far too long.”
In recent months, Neguse has also urged the Biden administration to appoint a federal gun violence prevention czar to coordinate policy across agencies and to ban import of semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazine, but the president didn't address those topics Thursday.
Biden reiterated his call for Congress to pass legislation he described as wildly popular with the American public, including gun owners, urging the Senate to pass bills already approved by the House to establish universal background checks for firearms purchases and close a loophole that allows a buyer to take possession of a firearm if the FBI hasn’t completed a required background check within three days.
"Whether the Congress acts or not, I’ll use all the resources at my disposal," Biden said. "They’ve all been sending their thoughts and prayers, members of Congress, but they haven’t passed a single bill."
Reactions in Colorado to Biden's announcement split along party lines.
"Republican Attorney Generals, get ready to fight the Biden executive orders on gun control all the way!" tweeted U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, the Silt Republican and staunch Second Amendment advocate who owns a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle, ahead of Biden's remarks.
"I’ll be doing my part from the House! Let’s ensure we stop this tyrant."
State Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, panned Biden's announcement in a text message to Colorado Politics.
“From proposing new federal rules that clearly violate the 2nd Amendment to nominating a gun-control zealot to head the ATF, it’s clear that President Biden is selling out law-abiding Americans and their right to keep and bear arms for the benefit of extremist gun-control groups who bought and paid for President Biden’s loyalty," Williams said.
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat and Army Ranger veteran, tweeted his support for Biden's moves.
"I grew up a hunter and served as an Army Ranger," he said. "I didn’t take my deer hunting rifle to Afghanistan, nor did I take my assault rifle deer hunting.
"Don’t be fooled by the gun lobby. The type of gun matters. Weapons of war have no place in our communities."
Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs denounced Biden's ATF nomination in a tweet.
"David Chipman is a rabid anti-gun advocate and longtime gun control spokesman," Lamborn said. "It is clear from his nomination that the Biden administration is intent on completely destroying our Second Amendment. He should never be the director of the [ATF]."
Eileen McCarron, president of gun-control advocacy group Colorado Ceasefire, praised Chipman as an "exemplary choice" to lead ATF.
“I have worked with Mr. Chipman on a number of occasions. He is intelligent, knowledgeable, accessible and has always been very helpful," she said in a statement, adding that his decades working as an ATF agent and years working for Giffords "make him uniquely qualified to be a dynamic leader of this critical agency."
Kristi Burton Brown, the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, slammed Biden's move in a statement.
“Today’s decision by the Biden-Harris Administration to bypass Congress and implement a unilateral and divisive power grab is deeply disturbing and wrong," she said. "The Colorado Republican Party will always stand up for our constitutional right to keep and bear arms. This decision will only hurt law-abiding Americans.”