White House calls on Republicans in Congress to reverse course on gun policy

Gun Rights

The White House released a memo Wednesday morning calling on congressional Republicans to release a budget and “decide what their values are” when it comes to gun policy.

“Republicans in Congress refuse to pass an assault weapons ban, instead allowing police to continue to be outgunned on our streets,” wrote White House communications adviser Andrew Bates. 

“Will they reverse their attacks on policies that reduce gun crime, and join President Biden in banning assault weapons?” Bates wrote.

The answer is almost certainly no, as the Republican-led House has chafed at previous efforts by Democrats to reinstate a law that expired in 2004. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said his conference would share its budget proposal in April. 

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There have been at least 110 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The House Freedom Caucus, whose members include the most conservative elements of the GOP, released a budget proposal last week that is unlikely to be considered in the Senate, even if it were to be passed by the House.

It calls for ending “the unconstitutional ‘pistol brace’ ATF rule,” a federal guideline finalized in January that requires gun owners to register the stabilizing devices with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by May. 

Stabilizing braces were used in mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and Boulder, Colorado. The Freedom Caucus budget “sends deeply concerning signals about” gun policy, Bates wrote. 

The NRA and attorneys general from 25 states are suing the Biden administration to overturn the rule. 

Sixty-three percent of Americans are dissatisfied with U.S. gun laws, according to a Gallup poll from February. Only 34% said they were satisfied with federal firearm policy, a record low for the survey.

“By every measure, the American people agree with President Biden on each of these life and death issues,” Bates wrote. “They will not accept more siding with the gun lobby over our national efforts to stop gun crime, or more siding against law enforcement in the name of partisan ideology.” 

President Biden spent Tuesday in California with victims of the Monterey Park shooting that left 11 dead in January and unveiled an executive order aimed at tightening regulations for private gun sales.

He also called on Congress to pass a universal background check law and end legal immunity protections for gun manufacturers.

“Do it now. Enough. Do something. Do something big,” the president said. 

In June, the president signed into law a bipartisan bill that expanded the background check system and provided money for mental health resources. The likelihood of passing additional federal gun legislation in this congress is slim with the GOP holding a majority in the House.

The president’s executive order instructs the attorney general to clarify the definition of someone “engaged in the business” of selling firearms and thus subject to performing background checks on gun purchasers.

“It’s just common sense — to check whether someone is a felon, a domestic abuser, before they buy a gun,” Mr. Biden said.

The order also calls for increasing awareness of state “red flag laws” that allow individuals to seek a court order temporarily restricting access to firearms for people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Ed O’Keefe, Gaby Ake, Sara Cook and Kristin Brown contributed to this report.

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