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President Joe Biden speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 8, 2021. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden speaks about gun violence prevention in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 8, 2021. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden Praised for Taking 'Crucial First Step' to 'Prioritize People Over Guns'

"The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation," the president said.

Jessica Corbett

Advocates of stricter firearms laws on Thursday welcomed President Joe Biden's announcement of six initial actions to address what his administration is calling the nation's "gun violence public health epidemic."

"Today's actions from President Biden represent a resounding victory for communities, frontline organizations, gun violence survivors, and all Americans," declared Bob Goodfellow, acting executive director of Amnesty International USA. "For too long, the way the U.S. government has addressed the issue of gun violence has been negligent, at best, and disastrous, at worst."

"Gun violence remains one of the primary issues threatening the human rights of communities across this country. These actions are a crucial first step in ensuring that U.S. government agencies are truly prepared to prioritize people over guns," Goodfellow added, praising the administration for its display of "much-needed leadership."

As a White House fact sheet detailed, the administration's six key actions are:

  • The Justice Department, within 30 days, will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of "ghost guns";
  • The Justice Department, within 60 days, will issue a proposed rule to make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act;
  • The Justice Department, within 60 days, will publish model "red flag" legislation for states;
  • The administration is investing in evidence-based community violence interventions;
  • The Justice Department will issue an annual report on firearms trafficking; and
  • The president will nominate David Chipman to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

The administration separately outlined specific moves that departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Labor will make as part of the community investment efforts.

Biden is also "reiterating his call for Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence," the fact sheet notes. His actions come as Democrats face increased pressure to use their control of both chambers to pass gun safety measures in the wake of the recent massacres in Colorado and Georgia.

While praising the president's steps so far, March for Our Lives also emphasized in a series of tweets that "there's more to do."

Joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Biden discussed the steps his administration is taking to address all aspects of the issue, from mass shootings and community violence to domestic abuse and suicide by firearm, in the Rose Garden Thursday.

"Gun violence in this country is an epidemic," the president said, "and it's an international embarrassment."

"The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation," Biden added, urging federal lawmakers to ban assault weapons as well as high-capacity magazines and to repeal gun manufacturers' immunity from liability.

The Associated Press reports that "family members whose children were killed at the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, school massacre in 2012 and the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 attended the hearing, and Biden thanked them for attending, saying he understood it would remind them of the awful days when they got the calls."

Mariah Cooley, a young Black woman who co-founded the Howard University chapter of March for Our Lives and has written about losing loved ones to gun violence, also attended the White House event and celebrated Biden's actions as "groundbreaking."

"Today, many Americans will feel genuine hope for the possibility of ending gun violence in the United States," said Ernest Coverson, the End Gun Violence Campaign manager at Amnesty International USA. "We welcome President Biden's renewed efforts to ensure the right to live free from gun violence by funding vital community intervention programs."

"These actions will save many lives, especially those in Black and brown communities," he continued. "We stand with the president and urge lawmakers in Congress to work with us to do more to make gun safety a reality for all."

Coverson noted it's been over a quarter-century since the federal government passed a gun safety law—and that earlier this year, his group sent a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Break the Cycle of Violence Act, "which would support on-the-ground groups working to keep communities safe from gun violence."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement Thursday that "the gun violence crisis demands immediate, effective, and strong action—which is why, as House speaker, I strongly support the gun violence prevention actions taken today by President Biden. These steps will save lives: stopping the spread of so-called 'ghost guns,' helping ensure that dangerous people cannot access firearms, and leading an evidence-based, whole-of-government initiative to reduce community violence."

"Ghost guns" are firearms that are self-assembled, often with parts purchased online—meaning they lack serial numbers and don't necessarily require background checks.

"As we take these steps, the House is proud of our passage on March 10 of H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, bipartisan and commonsense background checks legislation supported by over 90% of the American people, including gun owners," Pelosi said. "Working with the Biden administration and the survivors and families of victims who have turned the agony into action, we must ensure that these bills are passed by the Senate and signed into law, so that we can advance safety, security and justice in America."

While Democrats have a strong hold on the House, party leaders' legislative efforts can be stalled in the Senate due to not only a slimmer majority but also the filibuster.

Despite the barriers in his chamber, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Biden's actions "significant steps to helping end our country's gun violence epidemic," promising that the chamber "will act to address this epidemic" and he "will bring gun violence prevention legislation to the Senate floor for a vote."

Noting that she was sworn in "just weeks after Sandy Hook," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called out Republican lawmakers for serving the interests of gun lobbyists and said, "President Biden is right: the Senate must finally act."

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