As anticipated, the president Joe Biden presented this Thursday a set of executive orders seeking to limit access to firearms in a country that continues to be scandalized by the frequency of senseless massacres against the civilian population.
However, although the announced measures will have some impact, they fall short in the face of the magnitude of the problem and the same promises that the president made during the presidential campaign.
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The most concrete measure announced by the president is a new restriction on the sale of devices that allow to stabilize a pistol so it can be transformed into an assault rifle, like the one used by the man who murdered members of the Asian community last month in Atlanta.
Likewise, he asked the Justice Department develop a guide to prohibit the proliferation of “ghost weapons”, which can be built using different parts and do not have a serial number that allows them to be traced.
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Another of the president’s orders asks to develop a model that would allow a family member or member of the public force ask a court to suspend the right to bear arms to a person who is considered dangerous. The model would have to be approved by each state and what it seeks is that they can take action on the matter while the national Congress makes a decision on this issue.
The president took the moment to announce the nomination of David Chipman as the new chief of the Bureau for Arms, Alcohol and Tobacco, the agency of the Department of Justice that is in charge of this type of investigation. Chimpan will be important because he comes from working with groups that are dedicated to arms control and could channel many of his ideas.
And, incidentally, he presented another idea with which aims to expand support for communities hardest hit by gun violence so that they can launch prevention and intervention campaigns.
Biden’s ordersAlthough laudable, they demonstrate two things. The first is that despite the power of the presidency, the president is very limited in the amount of things he can advance without it. endorsement of Congress.
The second is that he understands how contentious the issue is in a country where the second amendment – the right to bear arms– is deeply rooted and does not want to spend a lot of political capital on something with little future.
During the campaign for the presidency, and also throughout the years as vice president between 2008 and 2016, Biden had insisted on two changes that would be huge.
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The ban on the sale of assault rifles – which existed in the past but expired in 2004 – and the universal background check as a precondition for acquiring weapons in the country.
Changes that took on urgency in light of the recent massacres that have taken place in the country in recent weeks. In fact this same Wednesday another was presented in South Carolina in which 5 people died, including a doctor and two minors.
Both changes are part of two laws that have already been approved by the US House of Representatives but they are held back in the Senate, where Democrats have a majority but are not close to the 60 votes required to advance legislation of this type. In fact, the opposition of the Republicans is almost total.
The only alternative is to use a very controversial legislative maneuver that would allow them to pass only with a simple majority. But To achieve this they need at least 50 upper house Democrats to agreeBut there are already two, which present conservative-oriented states, which have already expressed their opposition to this vehicle to approve the projects.
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Biden also has two other big initiatives before Congress that are also controversial but are higher on his list of priorities: the infrastructure reform and immigration, both with the potential to generate great changes and mark your legacy.
But in a Congress as closely divided as the current one, you will have to choose your fights because you cannot win all of them. And while at least 57 percent of the population, according to a recent Gallup sample, say they favor more controls on the sale of firearms, the issue continues to divide the country and tends to run aground in the legislature.
To put it in context, the last big gun reform dates from 1994. Since then many presidents have tried but with no luck. He didn’t even make it Barack Obama following the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre when a man murdered 20 children under the age of 6 and six other adults.
“We are happy to hear that Biden’s announcements are just the beginning of a series of measures he plans to push. But he also demonstrates the limits of his power with them. Congress, when push comes to shove, is the one who bears the responsibility to do something that is meaningful and has long-term impact. Hope they act“says John Fienblatt of the Gun Safety Association.
SERGIO GÓMEZ MASERI
EL TIEMPO correspondent
On twitter: @ sergom68
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