Biden eyes gun control, targets “ghost guns” – National & International News – THU 8Apr2021

The Biden administration is looking at executive actions on gun control, including "ghost guns".

White House mulls gun actions. Biden: room for compromise on corporate infrastructure tax. US to restore $235m in Palestinian aid. Amnesty: Russia slowly killing Navalny.


White House mulls gun actions

Following an uptick in deadly mass shootings across the country, the White House is looking at ways to curb gun violence and unauthorized gun sales. Given the situation in the Senate, Biden is looking at ways to take action using his own authority rather than waiting on Congress to pass laws. Biden will also nominate David Chipman as the new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Chipman is a former federal agent and current adviser for the gun control group Giffords. 

“Ghost guns”

The White House hopes to reduce the number and sale of so-called “ghost guns”. Ghost guns are homemade, have no serial numbers and are difficult to trace. Some are manufactured using easily-acquired parts and kits, and some parts can even be made using a 3D printer. It is legal to make homemade guns and not all homemade guns are “ghost guns”. Currently, there is no background check requirement for any sale of a homemade gun, with or without identifying markings. Minors and people who wouldn’t pass a background check can easily purchase one. 

New regulations

Biden will also ask the the Justice Department to draft “red flag laws” which states can then adopt. These laws would authorize courts and law enforcement to confiscate guns from people who might be a risk to the community. The DOJ will also come up with new rules on “stabilizing bracers” which can be used to transform a normal pistol into a short-barreled rifle. A shooter in Boulder, CO, recently killed 10 people using a pistol with a stabilizing bracer.

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Biden: room for negotiation on corporate infrastructure tax

At a news conference yesterday, Biden signaled he was willing to compromise with business leaders on a proposed 7% rise in corporate taxes (from 21% to 28%) to pay for his infrastructure plan. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has said he and other Democratic colleagues would be happier with 25%. Lobbyists from major US industries have now chimed in to say that they could also live with 25%. Biden says he’s open to negotiation with business leaders and members of Congress from both parties on alternative sources of funding to make up the difference.

Another key part of funding Biden’s proposals is closing various tax loopholes that allow huge companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon to get away with paying little or no federal taxes. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said earlier this week that he was willing to back a higher corporate tax rate for infrastructure improvements. Last week, Biden singled out Amazon as one of 91 Fortune 500 companies that use loopholes to “pay not a single, solitary penny in federal income tax”, while middle class families pay over 20% tax rates.

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US to restore $235m in Palestinian aid 

The Biden administration plans to deliver $235 million in aid for Palestinians, restoring part of the $360 million in assistance that Trump cut off while in office. $150 million will go to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa). A further $75 million will go towards  economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza. The US Agency for International Development (USAid) will also receive $10m for peacebuilding programs. This is in addition to the $15 million announced by the US last month to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and food insecurity in the West Bank and Gaza. 

Peace talks

Biden has also said he wants to “restore credible engagement” in long-stalled peace talks between Palestine and Israel. At present, it’s unclear what Biden’s plans for Israel are. Palestinians rejected Trump’s incredibly one-sided peace plan. Trump’s plan granted Israel sovereignty over illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital. While this was an almost total win for Israel’s right-wing government, Palestinians and most of the international community saw it as a giant step backwards in the peace process. Many speculate that Biden may seek a change of direction, but this

Since taking office, Biden has seemingly made a point of distancing himself from Israel’s embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is in stark contrast to the chummy and exceptionally accommodating relationship Netanyahu enjoyed with Trump. Any concrete policy moves from Biden may have to wait for a convincing resolution to Israel’s current electoral deadlock, and possibly the outcome of Netanyahu’s corruption trial. 

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Amnesty: Russia slowly killing Navalny

International alarms have been raised about the health of Putin critic Alexei Navalny. Navalny famously overcame poisoning with a Novichok nerve toxin by Russian agents last year. After a subsequent conviction on what he maintains are politically-motivated fraud charges, Navalny is serving a 2-and-half-year sentence in one of Russia’s harshest prison colonies.

According to his lawyer, Navalny has spinal hernias and is suffering from severe back and leg pain. Recent reports also indicate he may be losing sensation in his hands and legs. Last week, Navalny began a hunger strike to try to force prison officials to provide him with proper medical care.

Amnesty International’s secretary general Agnes Callamard says Russia “may be placing [Navalny] into a situation of a slow death and seeking to hide what is happening to him”. Callamard says, “Clearly the Russian authorities are violating his rights. We have to do more. [They] have already attempted to kill him. They are now detaining him, and imposing prison conditions, that amount to torture”.

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