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What the Biden-Harris Administration Can Do Today to Address Gun Violence

March 25, 2021

While the Senate is now the main battleground in the fight for legislative action on gun safety, there are many executive actions that the Biden-Harris administration can take today to save lives from gun violence. President Joe Biden appeared to allude to these actions in his remarks Tuesday about the mass shooting in Boulder in which at least 10 people were shot and killed –– saying, “As President, I can use all the resources at my disposal to keep the American people safe.” 

This Everytown roadmap provides an overview of what President Biden and his administration can do via executive action to save lives from gun violence. There are dozens of proposed executive actions in this roadmap that the administration can and should take, but here are three key actions that would be a great place to start:

  • Expanding our background check laws to clearly cover more gun sellers: The law as it’s written says you must get a federal gun dealer license and conduct background checks if you are “in the business” of selling firearms, but the term is vaguely defined, meaning that right now, people selling multiple guns per year are not taking those steps and are selling their guns without a background check. An executive action could clarify that the term “in the business” should presumptively apply to anyone offering five or more firearms a year, thus limiting the number of gun sales that take place with no background check and no questions asked. 
  • Eliminating the market for deadly, untraceable ghost guns: Ghost guns are do-it-yourself, homemade guns with parts that can be purchased without a background check or a serial number –– and they have emerged as a weapon of choice for violent criminals, gun traffickers, dangerous extremists, and, generally, people legally prohibited from buying firearms. Fortunately, the Biden-Harris administration can shut down the no-questions-asked marketplace for ghost gun parts and kits by directing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to ensure our gun laws cover all firearms, including the core parts and kits used to build untraceable ghost guns. If the administration does so, companies engaged in the business of selling these parts and kits would need to get a federal license, put serial numbers on the products, and conduct background checks on buyers –– the same process as for those who are engaged in the business of selling any other firearms. 
  • Dramatically increasing funding to combat skyrocketing city gun violence: City gun violence has intensified throughout the pandemic, with a sharp spike in homicides and nonfatal shootings — violence often concentrated within underserved neighborhoods and among small social networks. The administration can address this by unlocking hundreds of millions of dollars for evidence-informed community-based violence intervention programs through the American Rescue Plan and existing grant programs run by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

Recent polling also shows that these actions are popular among voters. Nearly 70% of voters –– including 67% of ticket splitters –– support executive action on gun safety. 

President Biden’s remarks also came one week after the mass shooting in Atlanta, in which 8 people were shot and killed –– including 6 Asian women –– and one wounded. More than 100 people in the U.S. are shot and killed by gun violence every day, and more than twice that many are wounded, in incidents of gun suicide, city gun violence, domestic gun violence, mass shootings, and more. Everytown recommends immediate legislative and executive action to combat this epidemic of gun violence. 

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