Gun control activists have been pushing the White House to implement executive orders on firearms since before Joe Biden was inaugurated, and it looks like they’re going to get their wish this week. POLITICO is reporting that the administration will announce several executive orders dealing with guns and gun sales on Thursday, citing a number of anonymous administration officials.
Biden will direct the administration to begin the process of requiring buyers of so-called ghost guns — homemade or makeshift firearms that lack serial numbers — to undergo background checks, according to three people who have spoken to the White House about the plans. He is expected to be joined at the event by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Other executive actions remain unclear. But stakeholders have speculated that the president could announce regulations on concealed assault-style firearms; prohibitions on firearm purchases for those convicted of domestic violence against their partners; and federal guidance on home storage safety measures.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives is already facing a lawsuit that was launched by then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California and several gun control groups over the agency’s current determination that unfinished frames and receivers do not constitute firearms that would require background checks, but if Biden mandates an about face from the ATF on the issue expect more litigation; this time coming from pro-2A Attorneys General and Second Amendment advocacy groups.
As for the other potential executive orders, it sounds like Biden may try to force the ATF to declare that AR-style pistols are in fact short-barreled rifles that are required to be registered under the National Firearms Act. That move too would prompt a swift legal response, given that the statutory language is pretty clear. These guns don’t meet the definition of a short-barreled rifle, though the ATF has previously suggested that attaching a stabilizing brace could, in some circumstances, turn an AR-style pistol into an SBR.
Trying to expand the disqualifying factors for gun ownership, even to those convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors against dating partners, would appear to be questionable as well on legal grounds. If Congress wants to expand the list of prohibited persons to include those people, it can do so, but the executive branch can’t simply declare that, based on nothing more than the president’s signature alone, a new class of people are now restricted from owning a firearm.
Finally, the “guidance” on gun storage measures is interesting, because that hasn’t really been mentioned as a priority for either gun control groups or the administration itself. It sounds like, based on POLITICO’s language, that any such executive order would be more symbolic in nature than an attempt to actually put a federal gun storage requirement into law, but we’ll have to wait to see what the actual language looks like.
I’m somewhat surprised that none of POLITICO’s White House sources mentioned trying to ban the importation of modern sporting rifles via executive order, which Biden pledged to do in his campaign for president. Just a couple of weeks ago more than 60 House Democrats sent Biden a letter demanding that he fulfill his campaign pledge, but if Biden plans on doing so tomorrow, his anti-gun lackeys in the administration are keeping mum.
None of the ideas that POLITICO mentions would do anything to curtail violent crime, but they’ll almost certainly lead to yet another surge in sales for both guns and ammunition, as we saw last month when the Democrats’ passage of a pair of gun control bills in the House sent gun sales soaring to the second-highest month on record. Long lines and gun stores and a continued shortage of ammunition are likely to be the most immediate impacts of any anti-gun executive actions that Biden might take tomorrow, followed by a flurry of litigation seeking to halt the implementation of his gun control agenda.
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