September 20, 2021

Biden Calls U.S. Gun Violence an “International Embarrassment.” Will Congress Finally Act?

5 min read

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, I’m Amy Goodman.
President Biden has ordered a series of executive actions on gun control, calling gun violence in the U.S. an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment.” Biden’s orders will crack down on so-called ghost guns — easily assembled firearms bought over the internet without serial numbers, which account for about a third of guns recovered at crime scenes.
The executive actions come after deadly mass shootings in Boulder, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; one in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Wednesday. Biden called on Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and said gun manufacturers should be held liable for deaths and injuries resulting from their products.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The only industry in America, a billion-dollar industry, that can’t be sued, has exempt from being sued, are gun manufacturers.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Brian Lemek, executive director of Brady PAC.
Thanks so much for being with us, Brian. Can you respond to what President Biden has proposed, and what you want to see happen?
BRIAN LEMEK: Thank you, Amy.
And I think this is a reminder for all of us that elections matter. President Biden came in and honored his campaign promises with swift executive action to start saving American lives. We are really thrilled with what he was able to put out yesterday. We are encouraged by the ATF director nominee, David Chipman. We are thrilled to see action on the very dangerous ghost guns. We are really encouraged by the amount of lives that could be saved from suicide through the extremist protection orders. And we are proud of President Biden and really feeling great about his attention to the issue.
We knew that President Biden, having been someone who served with the Brady family, Jim and Sarah, back in the early ’90s, who passed the original Brady background check system, to pass the assault weapon ban. So, we knew, coming in, that President Biden would be the gun violence prevention champion we all expected him to be. And now we are calling on Congress to carry the torch here and pass additional laws to keep Americans safe and to save American lives.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think is most important for Congress to pass right now?
BRIAN LEMEK: I think that the most important thing for Congress and the most immediate action to save lives is expanding the existing Brady background check system. This is a law that has prevented over 3 million prohibited purchasers since its inception. The call to action, really, for us is for Congress to make a really good law better, to bring it up to the times. We know that when the law was first created, that gun shows weren’t the operation that they are today, where the transfer of millions of firearms are occurring every year. We also know that the internet wasn’t as robust a market as it is today, either. So, these are things that could not have been anticipated. But we’re asking Congress just to come with the times and make a really good law better.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you make of the other Joe running the government? You’ve got President Joe Biden, and then you’ve got Senator Joe Manchin and what he has proposed, together with the Republican Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania, but many fearing he will be the person who will stand against gun control.
BRIAN LEMEK: Senator Manchin has demonstrated both an interest in keeping Americans safe while also not interfering with the Second Amendment. Senator Manchin is a hunter. He’s a gun owner, and he’s from a state with a rich gun culture. I think that he’s a fine example of what the gun violence prevention movement needs to be doing, which is working hand in hand with gun owners, gun enthusiasts, sportsmen, etc., to pass life-saving laws. And I think Senator Manchin is someone that can help us do that.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about right now, the issue that Biden raised yesterday, the issue of immunity for gun manufacturers, saying it’s the only industry in this country that has this level of immunity? What exactly does it mean, and how could it be stripped?
BRIAN LEMEK: It is probably one of the most dangerous laws that are out there. It’s shocking to all of us that the regulations on squirt guns are greater than those on firearms and firearm manufacturers. And really, what it is is a relic of the days when the NRA actually had power. Now we see them as a toothless organization.
And the expectation here is rules such as those can be turned over. We know that the NRA has put pressure on lawmakers for many years. They are the political arm of the gun manufacturing industry. And we know that now, with President Biden, with a gun violence prevention majority in the House and the Senate, with the overwhelming majority of Americans supporting commonsense gun legislation, that we can apply the political pressure to change those laws, to keep Americans safe and to stop letting gun manufacturers get away with, effectively, murder.
AMY GOODMAN: And Biden acknowledging gun violence in Black and Brown communities across the country and promising funds to community violence prevention programs? We’ve got 10 seconds.
BRIAN LEMEK: President Biden is just demonstrating that there’s comprehensive solutions to this very complex problem. That includes community, addressing suicide, addressing domestic violence, and just addressing the everyday gun violence that communities of color experience.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you, Brian Lemek, executive director of Brady PAC.
That does it for our show. A happy early birthday to David Prude!
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