Gun violence an ‘international embarrassment,’ Biden says in rolling out executive action

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Joe Biden and Gabby Giffords bump elbows Thursday. (White House screengrab).
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Joe Biden and Gabby Giffords bump elbows Thursday. (White House screengrab).

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday reiterated his call on Congress to pass stalled gun legislation reform but also outlined executive action he’s taking on several gun control measures, following deadly mass shootings last month in Colorado and Georgia.

“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and it’s an international embarrassment,” Biden said in remarks in the Rose Garden outside the White House.

“Last night, as I was coming to the Oval Office, I got the word that, in South Carolina, a physician with his wife, two grandchildren, and a person working at his house was gunned down— all five,” Biden said. “So many of the people sitting here today know that well, unfortunately.  You know, they know what it’s like when the seconds change your life forever.”

The Associated Press reported that the suspect in the South Carolina murders was a former NFL football player later found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Biden urged the Senate to ban assault rifles, which are weapons typically used in mass shootings.

The president also wants Congress to require background checks for guns bought at gun shows, close loopholes in gun laws and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act—a law that protects people from domestic and sexual violence that passed the U.S. House in March. It lapsed in 2018.

Movement on gun control legislation has been uphill in the Senate, even after mass shootings like those in Colorado, Georgia and Florida.

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement that he plans to soon bring legislation to the Senate floor, along with quickly confirming the president’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Michigan native and gun violence prevention advocate David Chipman.

More than 11,000 people this year have died due to gun violence, according to Gun Violence Archive, a nonpartisan group that documents gun deaths in the U.S.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed those numbers, adding that the Justice Department is already in the process of carrying out several executive orders directed by Biden. 

The Justice Department, within 60 days, will publish model “red flag” legislation for states, which will allow law enforcement or family members to petition courts to temporarily remove any firearms from an individual who either poses a risk to themselves or others. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have “red flag” laws.

The department will also release a report on firearm trafficking. The last report was conducted in 2000.

The Biden administration will also direct the DOJ to issue a proposed rule within 30 days that will stop the proliferation of “ghost guns,” which are homemade guns that lack a serial number, making them difficult for law enforcement to trace.

And the administration said DOJ will issue a proposed rule that would “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,” an administration fact sheet said.

Biden said violence spreads far beyond the highly publicized mass shootings.

“Every day in this country, 316 people are shot.  Every single day.  A hundred and six of them die every day,” Biden said.  “Our flag was still flying at half-staff for the victims of the horrific murder of eight primarily Asian American people in Georgia when 10 more lives were taken in a mass murder in Colorado.

“You probably didn’t hear it, but between those two incidents, less than one week apart, there were more than 850 additional shootings—850—that took the lives of more than 250 people, and left 500—500—injured.  This is an epidemic, for God’s sake.  And it has to stop.”

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who in 2011 was shot in the head by a gunman while at a constituent event in Tucson and now leads a gun violence prevention advocacy group, was also present for Biden’s remarks. Six people died in that shooting, along with one member of her staff, Gabe Zimmerman.

Biden acknowledged that it’s difficult to have a conversation around guns, but stressed that most of his executive orders and gun legislation reform could be bipartisan.

“The idea that we have so many people dying every single day of gun violence is a blemish on our character as a nation,” Biden said.

Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom.