President Biden on Thursday took a modest set of steps to address what he called an “epidemic” of gun violence, acknowledging that “much more needs to be done” and pressing Congress to take more aggressive action by closing background check loopholes, banning assault weapons and stripping gun manufacturers of protection from lawsuits.
“We’ve got a long way to go, it seems like we always have a long way to go,” Mr. Biden said, acknowledging the limitations of measures he can implement without Congress. “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment.”
Mr. Biden said the Justice Department would issue a proposed rule to curb the proliferation of so-called ghost guns — kits that allow a gun to be assembled from pieces with no serial numbers. The intention of the rule would be to require that the components in the kits have serial numbers that would allow them to be traced and for the weapons to be legally classified as firearms, with the buyers subjected to background checks.
“I want to see these kits treated as firearms under the gun control act,” Mr. Biden said.
Ghost guns, experts said, have become particularly appealing to criminal organizations and right wing extremists who want untraceable firearms that do not require any background checks. They are often tied to shootings in states like California, which have instituted strict gun laws.
Mr. Biden also said he would require that when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace transforms a pistol into a short-barrel rifle, that weapon is subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act. The gunman in the Boulder, Colo., shooting last month used a pistol with an arm brace, making it more stable and accurate, he said.
Mr. Biden said the Justice Department would also publish model “red flag” legislation for states. The measure would allow police officers and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from people who may present a danger to themselves or others.
While Mr. Biden cannot pass national red flag legislation without Congress, officials said the goal of the guidance was to make it easier for states that want to adopt it to do so now. The department also plans to release a comprehensive report on firearms trafficking, which it has not done since 2000.
“Red flag laws can stop mass shooters before they can act out their violent plans,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he wanted to see a national law.
Outside of mass shootings, gun violence remains the leading cause of death for Black men between the ages of 15 and 34, Mr. Biden said in his remarks, noting that additional funding he has proposed for community violence programs can save lives.
The initiatives announced Thursday do not match in scope his commitment to the issue over the course of his career, particularly his time as a senator. In 1993, Mr. Biden played a key role in the passage of the landmark Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. A year later, he helped authorize a 10-year ban on assault weapons.
Mr. Biden acknowledged there is only so much he can do without Congress. “This is just a start,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
The House passed two gun control bills last month, but they are languishing in the Senate in the face of the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passing most legislation, which requires the support of at least 10 Republicans. Mr. Biden called on the Senate to take action.
Mr. Biden also announced his nomination of David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bureau has not had a permanent director since 2015.
While Mr. Chipman’s selection came as welcome news to gun control groups, few nominees put forward by Mr. Biden have faced steeper odds of confirmation in the Senate. Still, his allies think he may be able to win narrow approval given the anguish over recent shootings.
In 2006, lawmakers allied with the National Rifle Association enacted a provision making the position of A.T.F. director, which had previously been a political appointment, subject to Senate confirmation. As a result, only one director, Obama nominee B. Todd Jones, has been confirmed over the last 15 years.