Biden, White House quietly ramping up gun control efforts

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

As Joe Biden’s approval rating declines to a new low on what seems like a daily basis, the White House is growing increasingly desperate to shore up support among its base, and that includes outreach to the gun control lobby that spent tens of millions of dollars on his 2020 campaign.


Some gun control activists have publicly expressed frustration over the fact that Biden hasn’t made new restrictions on legal gun owners more of a focus of his administration, but as the anti-gun press outlet The Trace reports, the White House plans on showing off its commitment to the issue today by issuing a… written handout.

For the first time since President Joe Biden took office, and in response to mounting criticism that he has abandoned the cause of reducing gun violence, the White House is providing details about the team responsible for that policy. The administration is expected to address those concerns publicly on Monday in the form of a three-page fact sheet, an effort to reassure allies that violence prevention is still a priority.

The document, provided exclusively to The Trace, doubles down on what the administration calls Biden’s “comprehensive gun crime reduction strategy.” But the statement does not include new policy proposals or executive actions, nor an announcement of a new nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which remains without a permanent leader.

“The solutions to gun violence are interdisciplinary,” wrote Stefanie Feldman, a deputy assistant to the president and senior adviser to the Domestic Policy Council. She noted that the Domestic Policy Council has organized a 12-person team to drive a gun violence reduction agenda that includes Chiraag Bains, a deputy assistant to the president for racial justice and equity; Vanessa Chen, a special assistant for criminal justice and guns; and Erin Murphy, a senior policy adviser for criminal justice. The team has existed since the early days of the administration, though it has grown in recent months. It operates under Susan Rice, the head of the Domestic Policy Council. None of the people on the team is focused on gun violence exclusively, though Chen focuses largely on the intersections of guns and criminal justice.


Honestly, I’m a little disappointed that Biden won’t be making any extemporaneous comments about his gun control strategy instead of using a handout. After this weekend’s unscripted remarks calling for regime change in Russia (comments the White House and Democrats have attempted to walk back ever since), I was looking forward to Biden telling us what he really thinks about our right to keep and bear arms instead of filtering it through the White House press office, but I guess the administration must be trying to put his mouth on lockdown as much as possible.

While the new handout doesn’t apparently offer any new anti-gun initiatives, the administration is still moving ahead with several executive actions specifically targeting legal gun owners. Last week the ATF declared that it now considers Forced Reset Triggers (FRTs) machine guns, even though they had to ignore the plain text of the law to reach that conclusion, and next month the agency is also expected to release its final rule on unfinished frames and receivers. Later this year the ATF will also release its rule on pistol stabilizing braces, which is expected to take aim at AR- and AK-style pistols that have braces attached and could result in millions of lawfully purchased firearms to be retroactively designated as short barreled rifles subject to the provisions of the National Firearms Act.


These new rules are liable to have a substantial impact on legal gun owners (several 2A groups have already indicated they’ll fight the regulations in court), and they definitely have the support and approval of gun control activists, but the gun control lobby is still lobbying for Biden to “do more” on their pet issue in Congress; specifically getting behind a new push for his proposed gun ban and compensated confiscation plan, or at least a “universal background check” bill aimed at legal gun owners selling firearms from their private collection.

With support for gun control below 50% in recent polls, however, Biden and his political handlers seem to have settled on a lower-key pre-election strategy of using the ATF and DOJ to promulgate new rules targeting lawful gun owners while avoiding a bitter (and losing) fight in Congress over the centerpiece of Biden’s gun control agenda. The problem with that strategy, at least for Biden, is that there’s an intensity gap between Second Amendment advocates and anti-gun activists, and there are far more voters who believe its more important to protect the right to keep and bear arms than to impose new restrictions. The president may be hoping to satiate the gun prohibitionists with his executive actions, but I think he’s going to stir up a hornets’ nest of opposition instead.


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