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Politics & Policy

Biden’s Executive Actions on Guns

Handguns at a gun store in Uniondale, N.Y., in 2013. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

You can read about them here. There are six of them, but they are mostly not too big of a deal.

For example, the Justice Department will create model “red flag” legislation for states, which in turn can pass or ignore the legislation as they see fit. (See David French on red-flag laws here.)  The department will also start issuing a new annual report on gun trafficking. And Biden will nominate David Chipman, a gun-control advocate, to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

A good thing the administration will do is direct some funding to community violence interventions. These are promising programs that can reduce violence without gun control. I’ve written about them here and here.

And there are two actual pushes for gun control by executive action.

First, the Justice Department 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.” NFA guns are far more stringently regulated than other weapons, but Kevin Williamson wrote about why these “stabilizing braces” are a bit of a sideshow here.

Second, there will be another proposed rule “to help stop the proliferation of ‘ghost guns.'” As I detailed here, it’s legal for Americans to build their own guns for personal use, but federal law is pretty vague on exactly how much businesses can help them — which, in effect, punts that question to the executive branch. Some companies have been selling kits with all the parts needed to make a gun quickly, without running background checks on the buyers or putting serial numbers on the parts. I imagine the rule will have a strict definition of when such kits become “firearms” under the law (thus requiring background checks and serial numbers), though of course we’ll have to wait until Justice produces some actual text.

All in all, it’s a modest collection of changes, and a far cry from some ridiculous ideas the vice president has had about executive action on guns.


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