Like tens of millions of Americans, we at San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP) are heartened by the six federal-level actions that the Biden-Harris Administration has announced. Too much time has gone by since our cause had a champion in the White House, and we welcome the announcement.
6 initial actions
We summarize the administration’s six initial actions, “fully within the Administration’s authority and the Second Amendment,” as follows (we’ve added the links):
- a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of ghost guns;
- a proposed rule to make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle;
- investments in evidence-based community violence interventions;
- a directive to the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” legislation for states;
- a directive to the Justice Department to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking; and
- the nomination of David Chipman to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
It’s a big-enough deal to see a presidential administration go to bat for any one of these issues. Seeing an administration tackle six of them feels like a once-in-a-lifetime milestone.
In fact, a lot of us have gone a lifetime without seeing action on them. That’s why this is such good news.
Going in several of SD4GVP’s new directions
For us at SD4GVP, the most important thing about these six actions is that several of them reflect the same initiatives we’ve been working on in recent months.
1. Ghost guns
We’ve blogged about ghost guns recently. They bear no serial number and they do not require a background check. That’s why our colleague Steve Lindley observes, “Everything we’ve been working on in California for the last 30 years in gun violence prevention is being undermined by ghost guns.”
We’ve also been supporting and promoting AB 311, introduced by Assembly Member Chris Ward, to ban the sales of ghost gun kits and parts at gun shows in California. And we’ve promoted Team ENOUGH, including in its efforts to raise awareness about how easy it is for a 17-year-old high-school senior to buy a ghost gun.
Ghost guns give us nightmares. We’re displeased that they’ve gained so much momentum so quickly, but we’re on it.
3. Evidence-based community violence interventions
Our coalition includes groups like Shaphat Outreach, Community Wraparound and Tariq Khamisa Foundation. These groups work in the communities most affected by the daily gun violence that engulfs people and families.
Over the last couple of years, we in SD4GVP have connected with the leaders in those communities. They have a ground-up perspective on where gun violence comes from and how to address it. They know that a lot of it starts with economic injustice, and they also know that not very much of it stops with incarceration.
The good news is that the Biden-Harris Administration has similarly connected with leaders at the community level. As part of this initial action, it issued an additional fact sheet outlining planned investments in community violence intervention to combat the gun violence epidemic. The list is long and it touches the American Jobs Plan, Medicaid funding and more than two dozen existing grant programs across five government agencies.
We tried jailing our way out of gun violence. How’d that work out for us? There is much more promise in this approach.
4. Red-flag laws
SD4GVP has supported the San Diego City Attorney’s office on gun violence restraining orders (GVRO), the California equivalent of red-flag laws. City Attorney Mara Elliott reports that, to date, her office has used GVROs to intervene in more than 500 crisis situations when individuals posed a threat of harm to themselves or others. That means a lot of people got a lot of extra time to sort problems out before they used a firearm to solve them.
As of April 2020, 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of red-flag law. The specifics of the laws, and the degree to which they are utilized, vary from state to state, which is understandable. The Biden-Harris Administration is calling for the Justice Department to publish red-flag legislation that states can refer to or use as a model.
The goal is to make it easier for states that want to adopt red flag laws to do so. The hope is that someday Congress will pass a federal red-flag law, and that, until then, they’ll pass legislation that gives states an incentive to pass their own red-flag laws.
At SD4GVP, we’ve long put our support and effort behind California’s laws on GVROs because we believe that it makes common sense to apply them locally. We’re relieved that the White House believes that too.
We anticipate that these six initial actions from the executive branch will encounter headwinds from the judiciary, the gun lobby and its stewards in the legislative branch. Still, they are the first signs of progress in a long time and we’re encouraged.
We look forward to fighting for them with you.
John White is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.