President Biden called the scourge of gun violence in America an “international embarrassment” on Thursday as he announced executive actions to address the vexing issue weeks after mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado.
Biden also announced his nomination of David Chipman — a longtime former ATF agent who served as a senior policy adviser at Giffords, the gun control advocacy group led by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) — as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Obama nominee B. Todd Jones was the last ATF director confirmed in the past 15 years. Former President Trump had withdrawn the nomination of former top police union official, Chuck Canterbury, to lead the ATF after some Republican senators expressed concern that he would restrict the rights of gun owners.
The President began his remarks in the White House’s Rose Garden by dismissing the notion that his executive actions against gun violence infringe on the Second Amendment.
“These are phony arguments suggesting these are Second Amendment rights at stake,” Biden said. “No amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater and call it freedom of speech.”
Biden went on to reiterate his remarks in the wake of the Georgia and Colorado mass shootings last month, decrying the epidemic of gun violence, adding that the issue roiling the country is an “international embarrassment.”
“Our flag was still flying at half-staff for the victims of a horrific murder of eight primarily Asian Americans in Georgia and when 10 more lives were taken in a mass murder in Colorado,” Biden said. “You probably didn’t hear, but between those two incidents less than one week apart, there were more than 850 additional shootings. Eight-hundred-fifty that took the lives of more than 250 people. And left 500 injured. This is an epidemic, and it has to stop.”
Biden then outlined the executive actions that his administration is taking to curb gun violence, which the President stressed are first steps to address the issue.
The President said he is directing his administration to begin requiring consumers of “ghost guns,” which are homemade or makeshift firearms lacking serial numbers, to undergo background checks. Biden noted that buyers aren’t required to pass background checks to buy the kits to make them.
Biden also advocated for legislation preventing people believed to be a danger to themselves or others from gun ownership, such as red flag laws that allow police or family members to file a petition in court in their jurisdiction and request the temporary removal of firearms from people who pose “danger in a crisis.”
The President also called for a ban of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, expressed his support for closing the “Charleston loophole” that permits the transferring of guns from licensed gun dealers without a completed background check and asked the Justice Department to release a new annual report on firearms trafficking.
While demanding action against gun violence from Congress, Biden appeared to take a swipe at Republican lawmakers’ “thoughts and prayers” gambit in an attempt to shrug off taking steps toward addressing the issue.
“They have offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress, but they have passed not a single new law to reduce gun violence — enough prayers, time for some action,” Biden said.
Biden urged the Senate to immediately pass three House-passed bills in order to close loopholes that allow gun purchasers to bypass background checks.
Attorney General Merrick Garland took the podium after the President concluded his remarks, and outlined steps that the Justice Department will take to deliver on Biden’s executive actions.
“The Department of Justice shares your commitment, that of the President and Vice President to stopping the plague of gun violence and saving the life of those we love,” Garland said.
Watch Biden’s remarks below: