LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Gun deaths in the U.S. have hit records in recent years. And today, President Biden is taking new steps to address the scores of gun violence in the United States. He's announcing a new nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That agency hasn't had a permanent leader for seven years. Biden will also announce a new rule to crack down on what are known as ghost guns - guns without serial numbers to track, which are sometimes sold as kits and assembled at home. NPR's Kelsey Snell is following this and has more about the newest high-profile pick from the White House.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: This nominee is named Steve Dettelbach. He is a former U.S. attorney based in Cleveland. And, you know, the White House is saying that he has decades of experience as a prosecutor at the Justice Department, including going after gangs and domestic extremists. And he has done a data-driven approach to fighting community gun violence. Now, this has been an impossible post to fill, in part because of polarized politics around guns across the country. You know, former President Trump couldn't get a nominee confirmed either. And the first Biden nominee, David Chipman, got pulled after facing opposition from gun groups. So it's not really clear what Dettelbach's chances are, you know, considering Democrats themselves aren't unified on gun policy.
SNELL: But, you know, the White House is pitching him as a consensus nominee with a strong law enforcement background, and they're promising to work lawmakers and convince them to vote for him. But they haven't really had a great track record with doing that.
FADEL: So the president is also announcing some new regulations to crack down on these, quote, "ghost guns." What will he be doing?
SNELL: So this is a couple of steps that the White House says will help kind of regulate these ghost guns, which are, you know, made from kits that can be readily purchased and made into a working firearm. And they're basically saying that any of these kits must - the sale of these kits must also include a background check, just like for people who would buy fully assembled guns. They say it would apply to what they called Buy Build Shoot kits, where someone builds a gun from parts, and kits sold for 3D printers. It would require the kit manufacturers to imprint a serial number on the frame or receiver of the weapon built by the kit. And if resellers were able to acquire a ghost gun, it would require them to put a serial number on the gun and not take any that don't already have the required markings. But this is not a ban on these kits or guns assembled outside of commercial manufacturing. That would take congressional action. It also does not increase the penalty for crimes committed with ghost guns.
FADEL: Gun violence really surged during the pandemic. As Biden was running for office, he promised to take it on. Where does his overall agenda on gun violence stand?
SNELL: You know, there's so far been little progress outside of previous executive actions. You know, political divisions that make it difficult for Congress to approve an ATF nominee are the same ones that make it nearly impossible for them to pass gun control legislation. This rule they're announcing today is actually something they've been working on for a year. Administration officials say they're working to combat gun violence through support for community policing and violence interrupters and other local-level efforts. But action like this - you know, as part of the strategy progressives in Congress have been demanding, they want executive action to make up for that lack of action in Congress.
SNELL: And Congress has basically been unable to do anything on major party priorities, from gun control to police reform or voting rights.
FADEL: NPR's Kelsey Snell - thank you, Kelsey.
SNELL: Thanks for having me.
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