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Justice Department proposes policies to address mass shootings

Administration focuses on stabilizing braces and red flag laws

A Capitol Police officer stands guard during a news conference to highlight the "importance of federal action on gun safety," at the Gun Violence Memorial on the National Mall April 14. The memorial's 40,000 flowers represent the deaths from gun violence in the U.S. each year.
A Capitol Police officer stands guard during a news conference to highlight the "importance of federal action on gun safety," at the Gun Violence Memorial on the National Mall April 14. The memorial's 40,000 flowers represent the deaths from gun violence in the U.S. each year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Justice Department proposed a new rule Monday to more closely regulate pistols that have “stabilizing braces” to allow them to be fired from the shoulder, which it said has been used in at least two mass shootings in the past three years.

Companies now sell accessories that make it easy for people to convert pistols into more dangerous weapons known as short-barreled rifles, which have heightened regulations because they are easy to conceal, can cause great damage and are more likely to be used to commit crimes, the DOJ said.

Those accessories mean the owners can get a short-barreled rifle without going through the National Firearms Act’s background check and registration requirements, the proposed rule states. Congress passed the law in 1934 to regulate certain “gangster” type weapons by taxing them, the DOJ said.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 also puts restrictions on the transport and sale of rifles and shotguns with barrels shorter than 16 inches.Such a stabilizing brace was used by a mass shooter who killed 9 and wounded 14 in Dayton, Ohio, in 2019, and a mass shooter in Boulder, Colo., who killed 10 at a grocery store in March, DOJ said.

The shooters in both instances reportedly put the “brace” to their shoulder as a stock, the Justice Department said. Manufacturers have sold 3 million stabilizing braces since 2013, the proposed rule states.

The department also published model legislation Monday to help states enact their own “extreme risk protection order” laws, known as “red flag” laws, that permit courts to intervene with those deemed dangerous to keep them away from guns to head off potential mass murders.

Congress has had hearings and proposed legislation — but never sent any bills to the president — to establish a grant program that encourages states to enact laws that allow courts to take firearms away from people suspected of being a danger to the public.

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