Gun rights groups are pushing back against a barrage of executive actions that the Biden administration has argued would help combat what it calls a “gun violence public health epidemic.”
The six initial proposals outlined in a fact sheet released by the White House contain two orders that drew particular attention: a Justice Department (DOJ) rule aimed at stopping the proliferation of “ghost guns,” and the ordering of the DOJ to publish model “red flag” legislation.
The proposals follow the U.S. House of Representatives in March approving a pair of Democratic-backed gun-control bills aimed at expanding background checks.
Gun-control groups argue that stricter policies will help reduce shootings and deaths. However, four gun rights groups—among them a national firearms association, a gun store owner, and a former law enforcement officer—told The Epoch Times that none of the president’s proposals will do much to control crime or increase public safety.
President Joe Biden is unlikely to stop at the six proposals. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on April 8 that he likely will issue more executive actions in the future while attempting to push Congress to create “long-term measures.” Psaki said Biden is “not going to wait,” and that “he can move on both levers at the same time.”
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a gun rights advocacy group, said he believes Biden knows there’s “no stomach for gun control” in the United States. Cleave is against both “red flag” legislation and the “ghost guns” proposal.
“Gun control doesn’t lower crime, and red flag laws will not help anybody that’s having a mental issue,” Cleave told The Epoch Times. “It’s merely about confiscating guns.”
“There are other existing ways to get somebody treatment, and if they have a severe enough problem, have their guns taken away legally until they’re mentally stable again,” Cleave said. “On the homemade guns, it’s going to be fascinating to see all the hoops they’re going to have to jump through to come up with some kind of a scheme to consider a piece of plastic a gun.”
Under federal law, individuals are allowed to make a firearm for personal use only, unless the person is prohibited from owning firearms. An individual also doesn’t need a license “to make a firearm solely for personal use,” but a license is required to manufacture firearms for sale or distribution, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Biden’s action orders the DOJ to, within 30 days, come up with a rule to help stop the proliferation of “ghost guns.” The White House says criminals can purchase a kit with almost all the components of a gun and finish one in under 30 minutes. They also point out that when such firearms are found on crime scenes, they are hard to trace, as there’s no serial number.
On the “ghost guns” debate, Christopher Stone, director of communications for the National Association for Gun Rights, said it’s completely constitutional to assemble your own firearm at home.
“Building your own firearms is an American tradition predating the Second Amendment,” Stone told The Epoch Times. “And Red Flag gun confiscation laws not only violate your Second Amendment rights, but your Fourth Amendment rights as well.”
Stone said the group and its legal foundation will vigorously fight what they described as “unconstitutional executive actions by President Biden,” saying the gun-control proposals give more unconstitutional power to the state.
He said the association isn’t surprised by what he described as an assault on Americans’ Second Amendment rights, but he said it’s “particularly offensive” that the Biden administration has disregarded the Bill of Rights in attempting to circumvent Congress and the rule of law.
“None of these executive actions are about crime control or public safety—they’re about controlling U.S. citizens and stripping us of our basic God-given rights,” he said.
“Red flag” laws allow authorities to temporarily confiscate guns from certain individuals deemed a risk. While this appears to make sense on the surface, Second Amendment advocates argue it would violate the “innocent until proven guilty” principle.
The executive actions proposed by Biden are “troubling to say the least,” said Mark Oliva, director of public affairs at the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a national trade association for the firearms industry.
“President Biden’s pronouncement that nothing he is proposing is an infringement on the Second Amendment is blatantly false,” he told The Epoch Times.
“The president is proposing that with rules he wants the Justice Department to draft, that this would only be available with a background check, or permission from the government. That’s not recognition of a right,” he said. “That’s relegating a right to a privilege that the government doles out at its discretion.”
Oliva said the foundation is “closely monitoring” the list of proposals and is speaking with senators and members of Congress about its concerns.
Other gun-control orders listed by the White House include a proposal to issue a rule that makes clear “when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act.”
Another is investing in “evidence-based community violence interventions,” which the White House says are proven strategies for reducing gun violence in urban communities through tools other than incarceration. The president’s infrastructure plan includes a $5 billion investment over eight years to support such programs.
Gun-control advocates, meanwhile, applauded Biden’s actions, saying they’re a strong first step in combating gun violence. They noted that congressional action would allow for stronger policy.
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control advocacy group, told The Associated Press that the move to regulate ghost guns “will undoubtedly save countless lives.”
Feinblatt also called David Chipman, Biden’s nominee to serve as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, an “invaluable point person” in the fight against illegal gun trafficking.
The Epoch Times reached out to multiple gun-control groups for comment, including The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and Everytown for Gun Safety, but didn’t immediately receive a response.
Former NYPD Detective
According to Rob O’Donnell, a retired NYPD detective and contributor to “Law Enforcement Today,” an online publication owned and operated entirely by law enforcement, Biden’s executive actions will have “zero effect on crime.”
O’Donnell told The Epoch Times that in his 30-year career in law enforcement, he has never investigated a crime or arrested a suspect using a ghost gun, nor did he know of a colleague who has. He said the majority of gun crime in America is committed with handguns, and the majority of those handguns are stolen, hence the focus on AR-style rifles is irrelevant. What would help combat crime most effectively is holding criminals accountable, he said.
“Police officers across America know firsthand that the greatest impact on gun crime is holding repeat offenders accountable,” he said. “The current system of a judicial revolving door with little to no repercussions with regard to current gun laws will not improve simply by adding new laws.”
Red flag laws are a constitutional slippery slope in the absence of due process if implemented without penalties for those who try to abuse them for intimidation or retaliation, O’Donnell says.
He called the narrative on universal background checks “a slight on words to make the average American believe gun laws are less strict than they really are.
“Every handgun sold in America by law currently requires a background check,” he said. “Certain long guns or rifles may be transferred without a background check, but these guns account for less than 1 percent of all gun crime and will have statistically zero impact on public safety.”
It’s absurd to think that adding a serial number to any number of gun parts will stop criminals from breaking the law or committing murder, said Erich Pratt, senior vice president of gun rights group Gun Owners of America.
“The Second Amendment is not about hunting. Rather, it’s about the people being able to protect themselves against a tyrannical government,” Pratt told The Epoch Times. “And that’s why these regulations are such dangerous infringements.”
Red flag laws turn “our legal system on its head,” Pratt said, arguing that such legislation upends the “innocent until proven guilty” standard, and throws real due process out the window.
Some experts point out that without Congress, Biden is limited in scope as to what he can do on gun control.
“Meaningful change will require congressional action,” Nora Demleitner, professor of law at Washington and Lee University, told The Epoch Times.
According to Demleitner, there are studies indicating that red flag laws can lead to a substantial drop in suicides. While noting that not all suicides are committed with guns, she said a decline in gun suicides would have a substantial impact. Demleitner believes both the regulation of ghost guns and red flag laws “are widely popular.”
Tony Martin, managing partner of a gun store in Virginia, said Biden’s rhetoric and executive actions are aimed at disarming America. Cities that have strict gun-control policies “have totally failed” at reducing crime, he said.
“Those same cities have the strictest gun laws in the nation and the highest crime rates,” Martin told The Epoch Times. “You don’t have to look far to see the difference between those failing cities and other population centers which are safe and successful and allow their citizens to practice the basic human right of self-defense.
“The constant flow of falsehoods and half-truths are intended to lead the uninformed American citizens down the path to disarmament, just as we have seen with other ‘leaders’ in world history,” he said. “These false leaders will chip away at our Constitution and our freedoms until they gain complete control. We must never allow this to happen.”