Washington, USA | XINHUA | In a bid to tamp down gun violence in the United States, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new package of executive orders on gun control as any gun violence legislation appears to face slim prospects in a divided Senate.
The gun control measures Biden announced include tightened restrictions on ghost guns — homemade firearms that lack serial numbers — as well as mechanisms that allow pistols to be utilized more accurately.
The executive orders also include new investments in programs geared toward communities where violence is prevalent, and the president called on lawmakers to enact reforms such as a ban on assault weapons.
In a speech from the White House, Biden, calling gun violence an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment,” said he would “use all the resources at my disposal” to “keep the American people safe from gun violence.”
Biden’s announcement came just weeks after several mass shootings that occurred across the country nearly back-to-back.
“Congress is not likely to pass any gun violence legislation, so President Biden will use executive orders to require background checks,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
“Republicans will attack his actions but won’t be able to stop the executive orders. There likely will be other executive orders that seek to reduce the violence that happens regularly in the United States,” West said.
Biden campaigned on the issue of curtailing gun violence, an issue important to the White House, although Republicans are blasting the president’s initiatives, arguing they will do little to curb the problem, and that the orders chip away at the constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms.
In spite of the Democratic-led Congress, passing major gun legislation is tricky, as some Democratic lawmakers are in states where constituents favor gun rights.
That means the most likely way to go forward is piecemeal regulations, by executive order or tucked into the massive infrastructure bill that is now taking shape in Washington.
The hot-button issue is one at which Republicans and Democrats are sharply at odds, as the GOP favors gun-owners’ rights, arguing that firearms protect people’s homes when the police can not arrive in time, and that gun laws will not keep people safe, but rather take away the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Democrats argue that gun laws will make a difference, saving people’s lives and preventing firearms from getting into the hands of the wrong people.
Last week, over 100 Democratic House members wrote a letter to the White House in a bid to push the president to take action on assault-style firearms, such as the weapon used in the Colorado shooting whereby 10 people were killed, according to Politico.
At the same time, gun sales are skyrocketing nationwide, as they have historically done in times when there is talk in Washington of more gun control. They also occur after a year of violent protests nationwide that destroyed the livelihoods of small business owners and those employed in those businesses.
Republicans argue that a number of the gun control measures Democrats are pushing were already in place in some states where mass shootings occurred, indicating that laws on the books will not stop someone who is determined to take people’s lives.
The issue of gun control also underscores the cavernous gap between rural and urban Americans. Many of the former support gun owners’ rights, as hunting and fishing are a way of life in many U.S. states with large rural populations. For many in coastal cities, owning a gun is an alien concept.
The cultural divide between the two groups is vast, and many rural Americans harbor a deep distrust of what they view as Washington elites, as well as the urban Americans who vote for them.
Amy Swearer, legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said in a recent article that the U.S. Constitution protects an individual right of American civilians to keep and bear arms, “while other nations consider it a mere privilege subject to the government’s good graces and arbitrary whims.”
“Our government is largely prohibited from enacting the types of restrictive, burdensome gun laws imposed in other countries,” Swearer said.
“Rates of gun crime and gun homicide remain much lower today than in the early 1990s, despite the presence of far more guns per capita and loosened restrictions on public carry in many states,” Swearer added.
As the debate over gun control continues, the U.S. Supreme Court is meeting in private to discuss whether to take up the issue in their next term.
The highest court in the nation could, as soon as mid-month, decide whether the nine justices will hear cases on licenses to carry concealed handguns in public.
The United States “is split, with the Second Amendment alive and well in the vast middle of the nation, and those same rights disregarded near the coasts,” Paul Clement, the former solicitor general representing gun owners in a major case, said in a recent Supreme Court filing.
“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said in the Rose Garden. “They’re phony arguments suggesting these are Second Amendment rights at stake with what we’re talking about. But no amendment, no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.”