WASHINGTON — A leading Democratic senator is calling out President Joe Biden to show “more urgency” to address gun violence by executive action, as the prospects of legislation on Capitol Hill to pass gun control reforms remain slim.
Sen. Chris Murphy, who represented Newtown, Connecticut, when he was in the House at the time of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, told gun control advocates and gun violence survivors Wednesday that Biden needs to prioritize addressing so-called “ghost guns” — homemade firearms that lack serial numbers used to trace them and that are often purchased without a background check — and to nominate a leader for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Because we are at a logjam in the United States Senate, it means that the burden on the administration to step up and take action is great,” Murphy said. “This administration can do more, this administration should do more. And I think it’s time to see some more urgency from the Biden Administration when it comes to the steps that they can take to save lives."
Homicides spiked in 2020 as the pandemic raged and millions of frustrated Americans were jobless, scared and angry. Even before the spike, 75% of all homicides in the U.S. were due to firearm injuries and guns were responsible for 91% of all youth homicides.
Record numbers of U.S. residents are buying guns now. Law enforcement officers recovered historically high numbers of firearms last year and are coming across more firearms stripped of serial numbers, making them impossible to trace.
Biden, like other Democratic presidents before him, has called on Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, though that talk diminished since he took office and tried to past more achievable reforms.
Biden has pressed his administration to regulate ghost guns, which Murphy called “increasingly the weapon of choice by criminals in this country." But while the Justice Department has proposed new rules to crack down on them, the regulations haven't been finalized.
Biden hasn't named a new nominee to lead ATF since his first pick, a former ATF agent who worked for a gun control organization, was pulled after both Republicans and Democrats expressed concerns. And the ghost guns initiative doesn’t go far enough, Murphy said.
Biden is limited in what he can do; the most serious legislative effort failed, even after 20 children and six adults were massacred in the 2012 Newtown shooting.
Biden’s efforts have centered on pushing out funding to help police do better at getting guns off the streets, sending in some federal agents to help beleaguered departments. The Justice Department is prioritizing gun cases that come from the “iron pipeline” on Interstate 95, where guns are trafficked up and down the Eastern seaboard.
But the lawmakers say there’s more proactive action Biden can take from the White House.
“The administration can do more,” said Murphy. “This is the time for them to do more.”