A gun accessory possibly used by the gunman who killed 10 people at a Boulder King Sooper’s last month will be more regulated by the federal government, President Joe Biden said Wednesday as he announced a number of measures aimed at combating gun violence.
So-called stabilizing braces, which can make a pistol more accurate and more akin to a rifle, will soon be regulated under the National Firearms Act. The change means people buying a stabilizing brace for a pistol will have to pay an extra $200 and submit more identifying information to the government through a registry.
“A stabilizing brace … essentially makes that pistol a hell of a lot more accurate and a mini rifle,” Biden said. “As a result, it’s more lethal, effectively turning it into a short-barreled rifle. That’s what the alleged shooter in Boulder appears to have done.”
The National Firearms Act was passed in 1934 and aims to curtail the sale of certain weapons used in criminal activity. U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat whose district includes the King Soopers that was attacked on March 21, asked the president to make the change.
Guns and accessories currently regulated under the National Firearms Act include:
- Shotguns with a barrel length less than 18 inches
- Rifles with a barrel length less than 16 inches
The 21-year-old alleged Boulder gunman used an AR-556 pistol, essentially a small version of the popular AR-15 rifle, that he legally purchased. He also had a semi-automatic handgun, though authorities don’t believe it was used in the attack.
AR-556 weapons are often modified with a stabilizing brace. It’s not clear if the Boulder gunman used such a brace.
Investigators have declined to provide more information about the weapons used in the attack.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will publish a proposed rule regulating stabilizing braces.
“We will make clear that statutory restrictions on short-barreled rifles apply when certain stabilizing braces are added to high-powered pistols,” Garland said. “Federal law requires that taxation and registration of all short-barreled rifles. It does so because these weapons are powerful, yet easily concealable.”
Garland said stabilizing braces make high-powered pistols more stable and accurate while still concealable, and thus more deadly.
“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic,” Biden said, “and it’s an international embarrassment.”
Biden also announced Thursday that he is tightening regulations of buyers of “ghost guns” — homemade firearms that usually are assembled from parts and milled with a metal-cutting machine and often lack serial numbers used to trace them. It’s legal to build a gun in a home or a workshop and there is no federal requirement for a background check. The goal is to “help stop the proliferation of these firearms,” according to the White House.
The Justice Department will issue a proposed rule aimed at reining in ghost guns within 30 days, though details of the rule weren’t immediately issued.
The department also is publishing model legislation within 60 days that is intended to make it easier for states to adopt their own “red flag” laws. Such laws allow for individuals to petition a court to allow the police to confiscate weapons from a person deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Colorado also has a red flag law in effect.
The department also will begin to provide more data on firearms trafficking, starting with a new comprehensive report on the issue. The administration says that hasn’t been done in more than two decades.
Biden is also nominating David Chipman, a former federal agent and adviser at the gun control group Giffords, to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Biden administration will also make investments in community violence intervention programs, which are aimed at reducing gun violence in urban communities, across five federal agencies.
Officials said the executive actions were “initial steps” completed during Garland’s first weeks on the job and more may be coming.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, blasted Biden’s announcement.
“I am wholeheartedly opposed to the unconstitutional gun control measures threatened by President Biden,” Lamborn said in a written statement. “Biden’s gun-grabbing executive orders will do nothing to stop criminals from committing crimes. These executive orders will only serve to further erode the Constitutional rights of millions of law-abiding citizens.”
The ATF is currently run by an acting director, Regina Lombardo. Gun-control advocates have emphasized the significance of this position in enforcing gun laws, and Chipman is certain to win praise from this group. During his time as a senior policy adviser with Giffords, he spent considerable effort pushing for greater regulation and enforcement on ghost guns, changes to the background check system and measures to reduce the trafficking of illegal firearms.
Chipman spent 25 years as an agent at the ATF, where he worked on stopping a trafficking ring that sent illegal firearms from Virginia to New York, and served on the ATF’s SWAT team. Chipman is a gun owner.
He is an explosives expert and was among the team involved in investigating the Oklahoma City bombing and the first World Trade Center bombing. He also was involved in investigating a series of church bombings in Alabama in the 1990s. He retired from the ATF in 2012.
The White House fact sheet said Chipman has worked “to advance common-sense gun safety laws.”
During his campaign, Biden promised to prioritize new gun control measures as president, including enacting universal background check legislation, banning online sales of firearms and the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But gun-control advocates have said that while they were heartened by signs from the White House that they took the issue seriously, they’ve been disappointed by the lack of early action.
With the announcement of the new measures, however, advocates lauded Biden’s first moves to combat gun violence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.