U.S. Senators Warren, Schumer, Broad Democratic Coalition of Lawmakers Urge President Biden to Take Executive Action to Address Gun Violence Epidemic, Limit Sale of Assault Weapons

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Image by Jason Gillman from Pixabay 

“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,” they said. 

Text of Letter (PDF)

September 13, 2023 – Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) with Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Representatives Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) led 68 lawmakers in a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to take further executive action to combat gun violence and limit the sale of assault weapons. These executive actions to prevent gun violence are endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, and Brady: United Against Gun Violence.

“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. 

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“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 using its existing authority. The proposed policies include: 

  • 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.
  • Reevaluating the list of guns eligible for import under the “sporting purposes” exception, which could significantly reduce the import of dangerous assault weapons.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 

The letter was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.); and Representatives Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Troy Carter (D-La.), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Henry “Hank” Johnson (D-Ga.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.), Morgan McGarvey (D-Ky.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Joseph Morelle (D-N.Y.), Kevin Mullin (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.), Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii), David Trone (D-Md.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.). 

Senator Warren has led efforts to implement common-sense gun control measures that protect American communities and save lives, including: 

  • In September 2023, Senator Warren and U.S. Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), and Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, seeking answers regarding the Department of Commerce’s lackluster oversight of assault weapons exports and its failure to release data on its approvals of these exports. The lawmakers called on Commerce to publicly release data on its approvals of assault weapons exports and provide a response to questions laid out in a September 2022 letter about Commerce’s troubling increase of assault weapons export approvals. 
  • In March 2023, Senators Warren and Menendez led a letter to the DOJ and the Department of Treasury urging the departments to issue guidance to financial institutions for the full implementation of the new merchant category code. 
  • In December 2022, Senator Warren reintroduced the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act, which includes and builds upon congressional Democrats’ strongest gun safety legislation in one bold, comprehensive bill that works to end the epidemic of gun violence in America.
  • In October 2022, Senator Warren joined Senator Markey in a letter to President Biden calling for the Administration to return oversight of the export of firearms, including ghost guns, and their technical data from the Department of Commerce to the Department of State. 
  • In September 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) sent letters to the CEOs of MasterCard, American Express, and Visa urging them to support the creation of a new merchant category code for gun and ammunition retailers and to request information about their reported opposition to Amalgamated Bank’s application for such a code.
  • In November 2018, Senator Warren introduced a bill proposing the most sweeping set of ethics, lobbying, and anti-corruption reforms in Congress, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, in order to break the stranglehold of big-money groups such as the National Rifle Association on Congress.
    Source: Senator Elizabeth Warren



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