Unable to pass significant gun-control legislation thus far, the President has announced his intention to target gun suicide through executive action.
The Biden Administration announced three new initiatives aimed at preventing gun suicide on Tuesday. The actions will focus on preventing military and veteran suicide, directing firearms dealers to make gun storage devices more available, and directing the ATF to issue ‘best practices’ to all federal firearms dealers to help promote gun safety.
“Today, the Biden Administration is announcing three new actions that will help to prevent suicide, including by promoting safe firearms storage and clarifying best practices for firearms dealers,” the administration said in a press release. “Studies have shown that reducing access to lethal means, including firearms and medications—particularly in times of crisis—can save lives.”
The shift of focus toward gun suicide is a noteworthy one for the Biden Administration. The President campaigned heavily on an ambitious gun-control platform that included a proposal for an “assault weapon” ban, magazine capacity restrictions, and a repeal of liability protections for gun manufacturers.
However, after the defeat of his preferred nominee to head the ATF, the continual drop in his approval over his performance on gun policy, and an already narrow majority in the legislature bogged down by reconciliation bill fights, the President may have been forced to resort to more modest actions on guns.
The President’s military and veteran suicide prevention strategy will direct multiple federal agencies to jointly produce a plan to reduce suicide based on education and awareness.
“The Departments of Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), Justice (DOJ), and Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as the Office of Emergency Medical Services within the Department of Transportation (DOT), will jointly create a plan for addressing lethal means safety awareness, education, training, and program evaluation,” the Biden Administration said. “The agencies will work together to identify, develop, and test any tailored messaging, and they will base their activities on expert guidance (including from suicide prevention experts and law enforcement professionals) and data.”
Additionally, the President plans to direct the ATF to formalize a 2016 proposed rule about the requirements of gun dealers to provide safe storage options to customers.
“In 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) proposed a rule clarifying firearms dealers’ statutory obligations to make available for purchase compatible secure gun storage or safety devices,” the administration said. “The Department of Justice plans to soon finalize a rule on this topic, including responding to public comments.”
He also announced a directive for the agency to issue best practices to all federal firearms dealers, reminding them of their obligations to follow federal firearms law.
“ATF will issue a best practices guide to all federal firearms dealers to remind them about the important steps they are legally required to take, and additional steps they are encouraged to take, to keep their customers and communities safe,” the announcement said.
Such best practices include a “reminder regarding FFLs’ obligations to run background checks” and a summary of “Department of Justice’s zero-tolerance approach to willful violations of the Gun Control Act.”