Today, President Biden waded back into the politically fraught politics of gun control, announcing steps to crack down on “ghost guns,” which he said have become “weapons of choice for many criminals.” During a Rose Garden event, Biden acknowledged the executive actions stemmed from an inability to get such measures through Congress and pushed back against the gun lobby’s contention that what he is doing is “extreme.” He repeated calls for Congress to pass an assault-rifle ban and other stalled measures.
Biden also formally announced the nomination of Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney in Ohio, to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The bureau has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since 2015. Biden’s announcements come in a midterm election year in which Republicans are eager to brand his party as soft on crime and Democrats are seeking to push back. Biden repeated his opposition to the “defund the police” movement, saying he favors additional investments.
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David Weigel: A dramatic shift in Los Angeles — A new poll shows the Los Angeles mayoral race shifting dramatically over the past few weeks, with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) falling from a clear lead into a tie with billionaire business executive Rick Caruso.The UC Berkeley IGS/Los Angeles Times poll in February found Bass supported by 32 percent of registered voters, with no other candidate in the crowded, nonpartisan race breaking into double digits. That was before Caruso, a developer of high-end shopping malls, loaned his campaign $10 million. That funded digital and TV ads about his plans to hire more police officers, declare a “state of emergency” and clear homeless encampments while no other candidate was on the air.The spending has pushed Caruso from 8 percent support in February to 24 percent in the new poll, conducted March 29 to Tuesday, while Bass’s support declined to 23 percent. Over the same period, Caruso picked up the support of the LAPD’s police union, while Bass got an endorsement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Ten other candidates qualified for the June 7 ballot; none were polling higher than 6 percent.Los Angeles has not elected a Republican mayor since 1997; Caruso, a former Republican who has donated to both major parties, became a Democrat just days before launching his campaign.The top two finishers in the June 7 primary will face off again in November, with the winner replacing term-limited Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat whose nomination for ambassador to India has foundered in the U.S. Senate.
David Weigel, National reporter covering politics
Matt Zapotosky: The Biden administration on Monday is set to roll out new regulations on “ghost guns” — kits that allow buyers to assemble firearms without a serial number. What the administration is promoting isn’t wholly new: It released the proposed restrictions in May. But that proposal had to go through the federal rulemaking process — with members of the public allowed to submit comments — and the final version is what Biden and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco are talking about Monday.What the new rule does is a bit technical, but, put simply, it will require retailers to run background checks before selling the kits and to affix a serial number to a firearm’s “frame or receiver,” which helps authorities trace it if it’s used in a crime. It also requires federally licensed firearms dealers to retain key records until they shut down their business; previously, they were allowed to destroy such records after 20 years.Biden and the Justice Department have repeatedly touted their efforts to crack down on ghost guns, which the administration says are increasingly being used in crimes. Last year, according to an administration fact sheet, about 20,000 suspected ghost guns were reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as being recovered in criminal investigations, a tenfold increase from 2016. Officials are promoting the rule Monday in conjunction with the announcement of their latest nominee to run ATF: Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney in Ohio.
Matt Zapotosky, National security reporter covering the Justice Department
Annie Linskey: Biden gets out of Washington this week — President Biden makes good on a promise to Democratic leaders made in the Map Room of the White House to start paying closer heed to the party’s political needs this week. He’s making two trips this week to politically important places, revving up Air Force One for more-than-typical travel.First comes a stop in Iowa on Tuesday. One can be forgiven for wondering why Biden would go to the Hawkeye state. He finished a dismal fourth in the caucuses there in his bid to become the Democratic presidential nominee and then he lost the state by more than eight percentage points to former president Donald Trump.But over the weekend the White House released Biden’s plans: A speech on his efforts to combat inflation and tout his infrastructure law in Menlo, Iowa, which happens to be in the middle of the congressional district of Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa). Democrats are hoping to hold that competitive seat in the midterm elections.Then on Thursday, Biden heads to North Carolina, where Democrats believe they have a chance of picking up a Senate seat that will be left open by Republican Richard Burr’s retirement. Biden is slated to talk economic policy in the Tar Heel State.
Annie Linskey, National reporter covering the White House.