Gun control advocates applaud Biden funding plan but say more must be done

Gun control advocates are pushing President Biden to take more aggressive action on gun violence following three deadly mass shootings in as many weeks.

Democrats and outside groups are praising the $5 billion for community violence prevention programs tucked into the president’s massive infrastructure package, which was unveiled Wednesday and is likely to get the next big legislative push on Capitol Hill.

But they say more must be done.

House Democrats this week urged Biden to take executive action to subject concealed assault-style weapons to more federal regulation. And others raised pressure on Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to promptly schedule votes on two bills the lower chamber passed last month to expand background checks.

“The extraordinary investment proposed by the Biden-Harris administration would save countless lives in communities that are most affected by gun violence,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “To meaningfully reduce gun violence, we have to both close the loopholes in our gun laws and invest in proven solutions. Congress should move quickly on both tracks to deliver the results the public deserves.”

But with the threats of Senate GOP filibusters standing in the way of passage of the House-passed bills, the infrastructure plan may be the most likely route for any violence prevention measure to become law through the budget reconciliation process, which needs only Democratic votes to pass.

The community violence prevention funding would be geared toward addressing structural racism and economic inequality as part of the infrastructure plan’s overall investments in job training for formerly incarcerated people and improving public safety.

The Community Justice Action Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for communities of color to combat gun violence, noted that it’s one of the leading causes of death for Black people and Latino men. The group called the funding in Biden’s $2.25 trillion proposal “a historic investment in proactive community based solutions to prevent violence before it happens through evidence based strategies.”

Christian Heyne, the vice president of policy at Brady, another gun control advocacy group, said the funding proposal is “really practical and pragmatic” and “has the potential to pass and to be historic.”

“These community-based solutions are part of any comprehensive solution to gun violence that should be taking place,” Heyne said.

The House passed bills last month to require universal background checks for guns bought over the internet and at gun shows as well as to extend the review period for a background check from the current three days to 10.

Since then, mass shootings in the Atlanta area, at a supermarket in Boulder, Colo., and at a business complex in Orange, Calif., have led to increased calls for gun control measures.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a lull in large-scale mass shootings in public spaces, while other types of gun violence, such as domestic incidents, increased, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

That changed in recent weeks, starting with the Georgia spa attacks, the victims of which were mostly Asian women.

Schumer has vowed that the upper chamber will take up legislation to expand background checks.

“This time is going to be different. A Democratic majority in the Senate is going to act,” he said on the Senate floor in late March, alluding to previous failed attempts to enact meaningful gun reform.

Nearly 70 Democrats signed on to a letter from Reps. Abigail Spanberger (Va.) and Joe Neguse (Colo.), whose district includes Boulder, urging Schumer to schedule votes on the two House-passed bills.

“We worked to gain and maintain majorities in the Senate and the House so that we could bring consequential, life-saving legislation to a vote. The American people expect action, and the Senate must act. The American people deserve to know where their Senators stand,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter sent Friday.

“In the 22 days since the House passed these common-sense gun violence prevention measures, Americans of all ages across the country have lost their lives to gun violence, and their families, friends, and communities have had their lives forever shattered,” they added.

More than 100 House Democrats also signed on to a letter to Biden this week urging him to take executive action on concealed assault-style firearms, similar to the kind used in the Boulder shooting, so that they are subject to more rigorous background checks under the National Firearms Act.

Gun control advocates have identified further options for executive action, such as directing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to expand its interpretation of “firearm” to include unfinished frames and receivers meant to be converted into firearms, prohibiting people convicted of domestic violence against their romantic partners from having guns, and issuing federal guidance to gun owners on home storage safety.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said this week that Biden is considering an array of executive actions, but the White House has yet to offer a specific timeline.

Aside from legislative efforts in Congress, “we are also continuing to review and consider what the options are for executive actions,” Psaki said.

Tags Abigail Spanberger Atlanta shootings Biden infrastructure Boulder shooting Brady Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer Community Justice Action Fund Everytown for Gun Safety Gun control gun deaths Gun reform gun violence Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Neguse Mass shootings
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