White House expected to announce gun control actions, name ATF head on Thursday

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By BENJAMIN SIEGEL and JUSTIN GOMEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden will announce limited steps, using his executive power, to address gun violence on Thursday -- three weeks after three mass shootings and under pressure to act.

Biden is expected to announce six actions, according to senior administration officials, including asking the Department of Justice to issue a proposed rule to help stop the rise of so-called "ghost guns" within 30 days. Those firearms are assembled from parts purchased online that don't have serial numbers and are difficult to track and are unregulated, according to a White House official.

Within 60 days, the DOJ will be expected to issue a proposed rule stating that a device marked as a stabilizing brace, capable of turning a pistol into a short-barreled rifle, be subject to the National Firearms Act.

The president, who will be joined by Attorney General Merrick Garland, will also nominate David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Chipman, a former ATF agent, has most recently served as a high-profile gun control advocate with Giffords, the gun control advocacy group named for former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head in a 2011 shooting in her district while meeting with constituents.

Biden will also call for investments in evidence-based community violence intervention, ask the DOJ to publish model "red flag" legislation for states within 60 days and issue a new annual report on firearms trafficking, which hasn't been done since 2000.

There is nothing related to assault rifles in these actions and there will be no legislative proposal from Biden, though senior administration officials stress that these are only initial actions, leaving room for more to come down the road.

The president's moves are limited and it remains unclear how effective they will be or if they will face any legal challenges.

These are highly anticipated actions follow his pledge to pursue gun control reforms as a candidate and early in his presidency. On the campaign trail, Biden said he would ban online sales of firearms, close the so-called Charleston loophole and promised to pursue measures that would keep guns away from those who could hurt themselves or others.

But the president has fallen short in his promise on gun reform and it hasn't been a priority for this administration. He focused on COVID-19 relief right out of the gate and is now focusing on his infrastructure proposal.

When he held his first and only press conference in March, Biden said "it's all about timing" when he explained why he didn't think now was the time to spend political capital on gun reform.

News of the expected announcement, welcomed by advocates and victims of gun violence and recent mass shootings, comes as Congress remains paralyzed on the issue. Despite Democrats' control of Congress, they still need the support of 10 Republicans in the Senate to advance any gun control legislation.

The House has passed piecemeal reform bills largely along party lines, but they have not been taken up in the Senate. That reality has led gun-reform groups in recent weeks to endorse progressive calls to eliminate the Senate's 60-vote threshold.

Biden is also expected to be joined on Thursday by gun control advocates and some Democratic lawmakers who have pushed for gun control legislation on Capitol Hill.

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