Biden's Non-Answer On Gun Control Executive Orders: It's About Timing

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

Joe Biden was asked about gun control during his first presidential press conference on Thursday afternoon, but didn’t provide much of an answer.

“It’s all about timing,” the president said of potential executive orders.

Biden then quickly pivoted to discussing infrastructure, saying that would be his next primary focus after signing the coronavirus relief bill.

The president is scheduled to deliver remarks on his “Build Back Better” agenda in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, next week.


That’s about as much of a non-answer as he could give without falling asleep at the podium and it’s not going to satisfy any of the gun control activists who’ve been agitating for executive action since he took office more than two months ago.

On the campaign trail, both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris said that executive actions to impose new restrictions on legal gun owners would be priorities for their administration, and even before the pair were sworn in, gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety had been publicly and privately lobbying for the administration to take swift action without waiting for Congress to get involved. On the anti-gun to-do list:

1) 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 the background check system covers all firearms, including the core parts and kits used to build untraceable ghost guns;

2) address the Charleston loophole, which enables illegal sales to go forward before a check is complete, by requiring all gun dealers to notify the Department of Justice (DOJ) before such a sale, prioritizing completing those background checks, and ensuring no background checks are deleted before completion;

3) take action to stop people who shouldn’t have guns and may be looking to get armed by requiring the FBI to alert state and local law enforcement of all denied background checks in their jurisdiction;

4) ensure the background check system has all of the prohibiting records it needs by having DOJ interpret the law to cover all prohibited purchasers and encouraging states and federal agencies to submit relevant records; and

5) target gaps in the law for proactive enforcement by having DOJ clarify which sellers need to get a dealer license because they are “engaged in the business” and crack down on the online sales market.


Now, some of these proposals would almost certainly face a court challenge, but gun control activists don’t care about that and it’s not clear whether that’s actually what’s preventing the White House from adopting any or all of the Everytown demands.

Personally, I find it odd that Biden hasn’t signed any anti-gun executive orders, and I’m sure that gun control activists find it absolutely infuriating that he hasn’t done so.

They may be slightly mollified, however, by the president’s comments on the filibuster during today’s press conference.

He said the rule should be reverted to a “talking filibuster,” which was altered to a silent filibuster in the 1970s. “You had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapse,” he said, adding that eventually the talking ends and the Senate can proceed.

“I strongly support moving in that direction,” Biden said.

The president’s remarks come as large portions of his agenda are threatened by the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, due to widespread Republican opposition in a chamber divided 50-50 between the parties. He said his goal is to find a way to negotiate and make progress on his goals.

But he also indicated he might support going further, if that fails.

“We’re going to get a lot done. And if we have to — if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” Biden said.


Biden also said he agreed with former President Barack Obama that the filibuster is a legacy of racism, though Democrats have had no trouble using the rule to block GOP proposals in recent years. Still, that’s emerging as the main line of attack on the Senate rule, with Al Sharpton threatening to hold town halls in Arizona and West Virginia targeting Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin over their opposition to nuking the 60-vote threshold for most legislation. So far, however, Manchin is holding firm, even when it comes to legislation like the Democrats’ push to federalize election laws.

Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat, told CNN repeatedly in an interview that “no,” he will not cave to pressure to gut the 60-vote threshold, even if Republicans block a voting rights bill. Democrats had hoped that a likely GOP filibuster on their party’s bill to expand voting access and overhaul the elections would be enough to convince Manchin and others to do away with the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold — given the onslaught of Republican-led efforts on the state level to impose new restrictions…

“No, it will not, no, no,” said Manchin, who also wants changes to his party’s election bill, S.1., before considering supporting it. “They are reading that totally wrong.”

For the moment, the best opportunity for gun control activists to gain any ground at the federal level remains with the White House and executive orders. I still believe we’ll see at least a couple of executive actions signed by Biden, but when that happens is anyone’s guess.



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