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After Mass Shootings, Biden To Announce Action On Firearms


President Biden today will announce several initial steps to confront gun violence. The measures include proposed regulations for types of firearms and accessories. And he plans to tap a gun safety advocate to lead a key federal agency. Of course, all of this is happening as the country still comes to terms with two mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado. Both happened last month.

NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us this morning. Hi, Tam.


MARTIN: Tell us more about what President Biden plans to announce.

KEITH: I think the most notable piece is that the Justice Department in 30 days will issue a proposed rule to stop the proliferation of so-called ghost guns. These are weapons kits that people can buy online to build their own guns. But because they aren't fully assembled, they aren't currently regulated as guns.

I spoke last night with Kris Brown, who leads the advocacy group Brady. And she explained that they've become just a huge problem.

KRIS BROWN: They are being sold across this country in kits not subject to any background checks, not subject to serialization. And they are being used in crimes across this country.

KEITH: And without a serial number, they are basically impossible to trace. But a note here, it's a regulatory process. And these things take time. There will be a proposed rule. Then there will be a comment period, a final rule, more waiting. And then when it's all done and put into place, it will inevitably face legal challenges.

MARTIN: Yeah. OK. So what else will President Biden outline today?

KEITH: So within 60 days, the Justice Department is supposed to come out with a rule to regulate what are called stabilizing braces. They can be used to convert an AR-style semiautomatic pistol into what is functionally a rifle. There will also be model legislation released for states to use if they want to pass what are known as red flag laws. And these laws make it possible to temporarily remove guns from people who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. There also will be a new report commissioned on gun trafficking. And they intend to move money around to support community violence prevention efforts.

Already, there is opposition being voiced. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote on Twitter that President Biden is trampling over Second Amendment rights by executive fiat. And the NRA, which is currently in bankruptcy proceedings but still has an outsized influence, says that they are ready to fight.

MARTIN: We are also learning who the president plans to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, right? Who is this person?

KEITH: This is David Chipman. He's a senior adviser to the gun safety group Giffords. He was also an ATF agent for about 25 years and is well-known and liked by gun violence prevention groups. And they had been pushing for Biden to name someone and had gotten a little impatient because so much regulation and oversight of firearms is done by ATF. Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, says Chipman would have been her first choice. And now he's Biden's choice.

SHANNON WATTS: ATF is really the key agency that enforces our nation's gun laws. And it has to have a confirmed director in order to do so and in order to do the very best job that it can. But it hasn't had a confirmed director since 2015.

KEITH: Yeah. The ATF director position is highly politicized, nearly impossible to confirm. But Democrats could potentially get Chipman confirmed with a simple majority, that is, if Democrats all support his nomination.

MARTIN: OK. So, Tam, these changes to gun accessories, these weapons kits, I mean, is this enough to satisfy gun safety advocates who were pretty disappointed in President Biden not so long ago because he was pushing infrastructure, not action on guns?

KEITH: Yeah. They had been incredibly frustrated. But now they're elated. They do see these only as first steps. And they are looking to President Biden to voice that, to say this is just the start.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.