Emily Tisch Sussman, the host of Your Political Playlist, breaks down President Biden's series of executive actions to address the country's widespread gun violence and what they mean for families.

By Emily Tisch Sussman
April 13, 2021
Advertisement
An image of Joe Biden on a colorful background.
Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

After promising to tackle gun violence early on during his presidency, President Biden announced a series of executive actions on April 8 aimed at addressing the widespread gun violence that has impacted communities across the country. This comes as there's been a rise in gun violence, with a shocking 20 mass shootings taking place in just two weeks.

Gun violence has become commonplace in the United States. According to Everytown research, the U.S. has a 25 times higher gun homicide rate than other high-income countries. And firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens, with Black children and teens 14 times more likely than white kids of the same age to die by firearm.

These staggering statistics show how gun violence can have a devastating impact on the lives of thousands of families. Studies have shown the majority of people support gun control in some form; yet, our country still has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the world. While it is urgent that Congress act to close some of the most dangerous gaps in our nation's gun laws, the president's executive actions address some of the most immediate issues surrounding gun violence.

Host of Your Political Playlist, Emily Tisch Sussman breaks down what the new executive actions mean for families.

Safer Schools and Communities

As a mother, I know how important it is to make sure your child is safe. In 2021, there have been more than a dozen incidents of gunfire on school grounds, including a shooting at a high school in Knoxville, Tennessee on April 12 resulting in one death and an officer injured.

Under his executive actions, President Biden created a $5 billion investment over eight years to support community violence intervention programs—programs that work directly with impacted communities to address root causes of gun violence.

"For decades there has been a lot of work going on very hyper locally to try to intervene in retaliatory cycles of violence," said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of gun violence prevention at the Center for American Progress, referencing Biden's then newly announced community intervention program during my interview with her in 2019. "[Policy goals are to] prioritize additional funding for community-based violence intervention programs."

Guns and Suicide

Gun violence has been widely recognized as a public health epidemic, taking the lives of more than 43,500 people just in 2020. Access to a gun in a home also triples the risk of death by suicide with a firearm. Not only has COVID-19 had a toll on the mental health of millions of Americans, but there has been a spike in gun purchases, exposing families and communities to greater risk.

During my interview, Congresswoman Lucy McBath (GA-6), who tragically lost her 17-year-old son, Jordan Russell Davis, to gun violence and has been fighting since to ensure no families have to experience what she did, noted, "Under COVID, it's really amplified the extremist gun culture that we have. We did see an exponential number of guns that were being sold, sold online without proper background checks, sold at gun stores, sold outside of the gun stores without proper background checks, and also the straw purchases that people continue to buy their guns from one another."

To help keep guns out of the hands of those who might want to hurt themselves or others, Biden has directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to publish a model "red flag" legislation for states. This legislation, also known as "extreme risk protection orders," aims to provide pathways for individuals to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

Ghost Guns and Illegal Activity

During his series of actions, Biden also announced a few measures that will help protect communities from a few specific gun-related threats. The president directed the DOJ to develop proposals to crack down on so-called "ghost guns" (guns you can make at home without a background check that do not have serial numbers) and gun accessories like pistol braces that turn a handgun into a highly dangerous short-barreled rifle. He also announced new research into illegal gun trafficking and the nomination of David Chipman, a highly-qualified former special agent, to be the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Background Checks

Biden has said these actions are only the first step toward fully addressing gun violence. In March, the House passed three crucial bills that will help prevent gun violence. The Bipartisan Background Check Act would require universal background checks. The Expanded Background Checks Act of 2021 would close the "Charleston Loophole," which allows guns to be sold if a background check has not been completed within three days. And the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization would help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

To learn more and prevent gun violence in your community, check out organizations like Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, March for Our Lives, or Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

You can listen to Emily Tisch Sussman's conversations with Congresswoman McBath and Chelsea Parsons surrounding gun violence prevention at yourpoliticalplaylist.com. For more conversations with women at the seat of power and activism about policy that affects you and your family, follow @YourPoliticalPlaylist on Instagram, and listen wherever you get your podcasts.