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Hirono, Colleagues Urge President Biden to Take Executive Action to Address Gun Violence Epidemic, Limit Sale of Assault Weapons

Lawmakers: “With Republicans in Congress blocking further legislative action to reduce gun violence, we urge you to leverage the full scope of your executive authority on this issue.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) joined more than 70 of her colleagues in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives in sending a letter to President Biden, urging him to take further executive action to combat gun violence and limit the sale of assault weapons.

“We commend the important steps your Administration has recently taken on this issue, including steps to expand the scope of dealers required to conduct background checks, increase public access to information about dealers who violate the law, and more,” wrote the lawmakers. “Nevertheless, the American people expect the federal government to use every possible tool to reduce gun violence. Congress must act — and it is an ongoing tragedy that Republican leadership refuses to do so. We also believe you can exercise your executive authority to take additional action to address gun violence without congressional action.”

In March 2023, President Biden issued an expansive executive order to address gun violence, which included directing the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement principles to further public safety practices through Department of Defense (DOD) acquisition of firearms and directing the Attorney General to publicly release information about dealers who have violated federal firearm laws, among other provisions. Still, 2023 is on track to be the deadliest year for mass shootings in recent American history, with almost 500 mass shootings since the beginning of the year. 

“The epidemic of gun violence demands that you use the full power of the executive branch,” the lawmakers continued. “With Republicans in Congress blocking further legislative action to reduce gun violence, we urge you to leverage the full scope of your executive authority on this issue.”

The lawmakers laid out a list of policy proposals the Biden Administration could undertake as part of its push to address gun violence through executive action. The proposed policies include: 

  1. Instructing DOD and other federal agencies that purchase firearms to implement standards for procuring taxpayer-funded firearms only from manufacturers that agree to adopt a code of conduct. The code of conduct could include declining to sell military-grade weapons to civilians and only selling to responsible dealers who refuse to proceed with a sale without a completed background check, even when they are legally authorized to do so.
  2. Reevaluating the list of guns eligible for import under the “sporting purposes” exception, which could significantly reduce the import of dangerous assault weapons.
  3. Transferring authority over assault rifle exports back to the State Department from the Commerce Department, reversing the Trump Administration’s shift of authority to Commerce, which allowed a surge in exports of these deadly weapons.
  4. Encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to issue a policy statement on “unfair or deceptive” gun ads that falsely assert that firearm ownership increases household residents’ physical safety from gun violence.
  5. Directing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review its interpretation of the Tiahrt Amendment in order to expand the types of firearm trace data that can be released to the public, including to researchers, litigants, and journalists. 

“These proposals are just examples of the additional actions your Administration can take to reduce gun violence and protect our communities from the next mass shooting. With Republicans in Congress refusing to act, the American people are relying on your Administration to ensure that they can move through their daily lives without fear of firearms on the streets, in public establishments, and in their homes,” concluded the lawmakers. 

These executive actions to prevent gun violence are endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, and Brady: United Against Gun Violence.

In addition to Senator Hirono, the letter was signed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

In the House of Representatives, the letter was signed by more than 45 members including Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC), Colin Allred (D-TX), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Troy Carter (D-LA), Sean Casten (D-IL), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Jason Crow (D-CO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jill Tokuda (D-HI), David Trone (D-MD), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL). 

The full text of the letter is available here.

Senator Hirono is a strong advocate for gun safety legislation and is continuously fighting to protect victim and survivors of gun violence. In June 2023, Senator Hirono reintroduced the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, legislation to ensure that victims of gun violence have their day in court and that negligent gun companies and gun sellers are not shielded from liability when they disregard public safety. In March 2023, Senator Hirono highlighted the impacts of the 2022 Supreme Court decision overturning New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen and how this decision could impact Hawaii and the increased risk of gun violence in public and private spaces. In October 2022, she joined her Senate colleagues in urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to issue enforcement guidance and clarify the recently finalized Ghost Gun Rule.