President Biden is preparing to make gun safety a central issue of his reelection campaign. That will start with a major rollout of a new executive action to expand background checks for gun purchases, CNN reports. Long sought by gun safety advocates, the plan, which Biden set in motion in March, would expand the definition of which gun sellers are required to comply with federal licensing and background check requirements. It is seen by both proponents and opponents as the most that can be done toward establishing universal background checks without new legislation. White House aides are planning a larger event to announce it, with the president going into the fall, with more campaign-related events centered on guns likely as well. The interlocking government and political events heading into the fall – starting with Vice President Kamala Harris’s speech last Friday at the “Gun Sense University” hosted by the Everytown for Gun Safety group – reflect a continuing shift on gun control.
Democrats say the issue has become a litmus test for a growing number of voters, including those in the “school shooting generation” of young people and the many Americans who have grown frustrated with news of frequent mass shootings and gun violence in the streets. Several people advising the campaign and supporting more focus on guns argue that the issue is, along with abortion, an opening to argue that Republicans are extreme and plays into Biden’s larger campaign theme of an ongoing “battle for the soul of America.” All major gun safety groups jointly endorsed Biden for reelection last week. Their leaders expect to spend heavily in races from president down to state legislature seats. Biden knows the assault weapons ban he keeps calling for will never pass in the current Congress. His focus will be not only on the new executive action but also on calling attention to policing and community antiviolence programs funded through the American Rescue Plan and on the implementation of the last partisan gun reform bill.