United States: Biden unveils plan to limit firearms

President Joe Biden will unveil measures to limit the proliferation of guns in the United States on Thursday, where shootings are a recurring evil that successive governments have so far been powerless to stem.

The Democrat will announce six measures “to deal with the health epidemic linked to gun violence,” one of the White House officials said on condition of anonymity.

Among them is a new rule aimed at “stopping the proliferation of phantom weapons”, which are handcrafted and have no serial number.

The president also wants more support for agencies involved in the fight against violence and request the first global report on firearms trafficking in the United States since 2000.

“First” steps

However, he should not announce any major measures to toughen gun laws, such as more background checks or ending the sale of rifles often used in so-called mass killings.

The White House official stressed that these measures, which Mr. Biden is to unveil alongside his Minister of Justice Merrick Garland, were only “first” steps.

The president is also due to announce the appointment of David Chipman, an advocate for gun limitation, as head of the arms, explosives, tobacco and alcohol control agency (ATF), crucial in the fight against gun violence.

A sign of the lack of political unity on this highly sensitive subject, the ATF has not had a director confirmed by the Senate since 2015.

Joe Biden, a longtime proponent of better gun regulation, pledged during his campaign to act on this front. A spate of shootings in recent weeks has increased the pressure for him to take action.

Cleavage subject

After killings in Georgia and then Colorado, he called on Congress to ban assault rifles and pass legislation to better verify the background of buyers, but short Democratic majorities in both chambers make it difficult to pass. texts on this very divisive subject.

In 1994, then senator, Joe Biden had participated in the adoption of a law banning assault rifles. But the measure was only valid for ten years and could never be renewed after 2004 given the opposition of elected Republican officials to what they perceive as a violation of a constitutional right.

Former President Donald Trump, who received millions of dollars from the NRA, the powerful gun lobby, for his two presidential campaigns, has on the contrary in the past claimed to be the most fervent defender of the right of Americans to detain a weapon.

Firearms killed more than 43,000 people, including suicides, in the United States in 2020, according to the Gun Violence Archive website. The organization counted 611 “mass shootings” – which count at least four victims – in 2020, against 417 the previous year.

And since January 1, more than 4,000 people have already been killed by a gun.

But many Americans remain very attached to their guns and have even rushed to buy more since the start of the pandemic, and even more during the major anti-racist protests in the spring and election tensions in the fall.

“Gun violence takes lives and leaves behind a lasting legacy of trauma within communities every day in this country, even when it does not make the evening headlines,” the White House noted in a report. statement, saying the US president “committed to taking action to reduce all forms of gun violence.”

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