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US gun violence 'an international embarrassment,' says Biden

President BidenJoe BidenBiden taps California workplace safety leader to head up OSHA Romney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS US mulling cash payments to help curb migration MORE on Thursday decried the epidemic of gun violence in America as an "international embarrassment" as he rolled out a series of executive actions intended to address the issue.

"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."

"So the idea is just bizarre to suggest that some of the things we’re recommending are contrary to the Constitution," he added. "Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. And it’s an international embarrassment."

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Biden, flanked in the Rose Garden by Vice President Harris and Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBudget tasks DOJ with turnaround of policing, voting rights, hate crimes Progressive group ramps up pressure on Justice Breyer to retire The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE, outlined six measures his administration will pursue to try to curb gun violence. 

Biden directed the Justice Department to propose rules to make "ghost guns," homemade weapons without a serial number that are more difficult to track, subject to background checks; to propose model "red flag" legislation for states that could help law enforcement keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals; and to reclassify pistols modified with stabilizer braces to be subject to the National Firearms Act.

The Department of Justice is also expected to issue a report on gun trafficking for the first time in years, and five federal agencies will be directed to focus grant programs more on community-based gun violence intervention. Biden is set to nominate David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Chipman worked as an ATF agent for 25 years.

Biden framed the need for action as urgent, repeatedly calling the steady drum beat of mass shootings in the U.S. an epidemic. He pointed to recent mass shootings in Atlanta; Boulder, Colo.; and one this week in South Carolina that left five people dead.

Hundreds of people each day are shot in the country, Biden said, noting flags were still at half-staff for the victims of the Atlanta shooting when the Boulder shooting happened less than a week later.

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"This is an epidemic for God's sake, and it has to stop,” he said.

Attendees in the Rose Garden included numerous advocates for stronger gun laws, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in 2012, parents of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings of 2012 and 2018, respectively, and Brandon Wolfe, a survivor of the 2017 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.

Biden reiterated his calls for Congress to take action by passing three House-passed measures on the issue, just as he did last month after the Colorado shooting. The president urged the Senate to pass the House bills that would expand background checks, close the so-called Charleston loophole and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. All three were passed with bipartisan support in the House.

“They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers … but they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence,” Biden said. “Enough prayers. Time for some action.”