President-elect Joe Biden campaigned on one of the most extensive gun reform agendas in U.S. history. He pledged to ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, institute a voluntary gun buy-back program, and direct more than $900 million to community-based violence intervention. Biden will need the support of Congress. If the Republicans continue to control the Senate, many of Biden’s proposals are dead on arrival. Still, Biden has the authority to direct agencies, set priorities and appoint leadership. “Joe Biden also knows how to make progress on reducing gun violence using executive action,” says his website. Former President Barack Obama signed two dozen executive orders to improve enforcement of existing laws and strengthen background check databases. The effort largely failed to curb access to firearms, The Trace reports.
Gun violence prevention groups are keen on getting Biden to act more decisively. On Tuesday, a coalition of 86 national, state and local violence prevention groups signed a letter to Biden’s transition team laying out executive actions he could take. Biden could create an interagency task force on gun violence prevention to coordinate the national response. He could reinvigorate the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been floundering without a permanent leader and with an inadequate budget. He could improve the data available on guns. There’s a two-year lag on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on gun deaths. ATF could use its rulemaking authority to regulate the parts needed to assemble homemade weapons. Biden could restrict the importation of assault weapons. Some of Biden’s other proposals, like $900 million in funding for community gun violence prevention programs and adequate funding for existing background check programs, may also have a decent chance in a Senate with a slim Republican majority.