Speaking at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden yesterday, Mr Biden proposed a new rule to regulate so-called ghost guns – weapons that are assembled from constituent pieces and lack serial numbers, making it difficult for them to be traced.
Under the new system, these type guns would be legally classified as firearms for the first time, and buyers would be subject to background checks. He also announced plans to regulate arm braces – equipment that makes guns more stable and accurate and have been used in lethal shootings in the past.
But even as he made the announcement, Mr Biden admitted that it was “just a start” and much more remained to be done to tackle the country’s gun violence problem.
Comprehensive gun reform requires legislative changes approved by Congress, and there is significant Republican resistance to efforts to curb gun ownership.
Earlier this year, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed two Bills strengthening background checks. But the legislation has yet to be taken up by the Senate. Gun control legislation would need to pass the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the upper house, and Democrats hold only 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber.
Nonetheless, Mr Biden expressed optimism that meaningful gun control legislation would eventually be passed.
“I know it’s painful and frustrating that we haven’t made the progress we hoped for… no matter how long it takes, we’re going to get these passed. We’re not going to give up,” he said.
Many of those present at the White House event had been directly impacted by gun violence. They included the parents of Daniel Barden, a seven-year-old boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Connecticut in 2012, and Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Florida two years ago.
Former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head while meeting constituents in Arizona in 2012 but survived the attack, also attended, as well as members of Congress who have been at the forefront of efforts to curb gun violence such as senator Chris Murphy.
Mr Biden thanked those present for attending. “They’re here and their pain is immense,” he said, noting that such an event “brings back when you got that phone call … brings back the immediacy of what happened at that moment. Thank you for having the courage”.
The president laid out in stark terms the scale of America’s gun violence challenge. “Every day in this country 316 are shot … 106 of them die, every day. The idea that we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation,” he said, noting that gun violence remains the leading cause of death for black men between the ages of 15 and 34. “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment.”
He also indirectly appealed to Republicans to support measures to regulate weapons, saying the “overwhelming majority of Americans” want to see change”.
He added: “I know that the conversation about guns in this country can be a difficult one, but even here there’s much more common ground than anyone would believe.”
He said that the rules he was proposing were “totally consistent with the second amendment” – the constitutional provision that gives Americans the right to bear arms.
Mr Biden’s focus on gun control measures comes in the wake of a number of mass shootings in recent weeks.
On Wednesday evening, a man, believed to be an ex-NFL player, shot five people dead in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.