Biden will additionally tell the Justice Department to offer model “red flag” legislation to states—if Congress won’t pass a law allowing “family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order temporarily barring people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others,” then the president will help states do so. Next, he’s ordering five different federal agencies to “direct vital support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible,” while his American Jobs Plan would direct $5 billion to community violence intervention programs. Additionally, the Justice Department will start issuing an annual report on firearms trafficking so that state, local, and federal policymakers know what they’re dealing with when they try to block trafficking.
Finally, Biden is announcing his nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, an agency that hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015. That points to the difficulty of getting anyone confirmed, but Biden is going to try, with David Chipman. Chipman is a former longtime ATF agent who has recently served as an adviser to Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun reform group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Following mass shootings in spas in the Atlanta area and a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket, Biden called on the Senate to “immediately pass the two House-passed bills that close holes in the background check system. These are bills that received votes of both Republicans and Democrats in the House. This is not and should not be a partisan issue. It’s an American issue. It will save lives, American lives, and we have to act. We should also ban assault weapons in the process.”
Biden is making that point again as he takes executive action. But even the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, which has 84% public support according to one poll, is a long shot in a Senate with an intact filibuster, requiring 10 Republican votes. Similarly, while 29 House Republicans voted for the Violence Against Women Act, its provision to take guns away from abusive boyfriends and stalkers is one of a few that will make it difficult to get past the Republican filibuster in the Senate.
Even in the 1990s, gun laws passed the Senate with simple majorities, before it became Republican practice to just filibuster everything. But in today’s political reality, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell determined to serve as a roadblock to any possible Democratic success, Biden’s executive actions are critical because they may be the only progress against gun violence.