On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order intended to increase the number of background checks for gun purchases.
Biden announced the order during a visit to Monterey Park, Calif., the site of a January mass shooting in which 11 people were killed, where he also called for Congress to pass gun control legislation, including a ban on military-style weapons and universal background checks.
“We remember and mourn today, but I’m here with you today to act,” Biden said on Tuesday, before an assembly of officials and families impacted by the shooting.
What You Need To Know
- President Joe Biden signed an executive order intended to increase the number of background checks for gun purchases
- The order also promotes the use of so-called "red flag" laws, which allow a court to remove a person's guns if they're determined to be dangerous, promotes safer storage of firearms and orders agencies to detail how they will implement funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the gun safety bill Congress passed last year
- Biden announced the order during a visit to Monterey Park, Calif., the site of a January mass shooting that left 11 dead and nine wounded
- He also called for Congress to pass gun control legislation, including a ban on military-style weapons and universal background checks
Biden remembered the dead on Tuesday, sharing their names and their stories, their likes, loves and beliefs, praising them and their community for the faith and pride they have and had in one another.
"As a nation, remember them," he implored. "Immigrants from China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, all of whom found home in America,"
“All of them lived lives of love, sacrifice and service for their families, for their community,” Biden added. “They represent a bigger story: who we are as Americans, embodying the simple truth that our diversity is the strength of this nation.”
Biden's new executive order would direct Attorney General Merrick Garland to encourage firearm dealers to run background checks required by law to get “as close as we can to universal background checks without additional legislation in order to keep guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers,” accoridng to a senior administration official.
"It's just common sense to check whether someone is a felon, a domestic abuser before they buy a gun," Biden said Tuesday.
The goal is to make clear to gun sellers willfully or unknowingly violating the law what the requirements are and raise the rate of compliance, officials said.
The order also promotes the use of so-called "red flag" laws, which allow a court to remove a person's guns if they're determined to be dangerous, promotes safer storage of firearms and orders agencies to detail how they will implement funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the gun safety bill Congress passed last year.
The president acknowledged his limited power through executive action and renewed his call for lawmakers to take action to address the scourge of gun violence.
“None of this absolves Congress of the responsibility of acting to pass universal background checks, to eliminate gun manufactures’ immunity from liability, and I am determined once again to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Biden said.
"In the meantime, my administration will continue to do all that we can, within existing authority, to make our communities safer," he added.
"The President wants to see Congress act, but he's not going to wait when when it comes to implementing innovative, creative, forward-leaning policy, like he's doing today through this executive order to try and do everything in his power to strengthen gun safety," White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Olivia Dalton told Spectrum News earlier Tuesday. "It's an all-of-the-above approach by this president to try and do something to address this epidemic of gun violence across America and do something to tackle this scourge."
Garland will also be instructed to release Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives inspection records of gun dealers who violated federal laws, in an attempt to educate the public and provide data for lawmakers to use in crafting legislation, according to senior administration officials.
Biden chose Monterey Park, a city just east of Los Angeles, as the site of his announcement because of the January mass shooting – which left 11 dead and nine wounded – that rocked the community, officials said.
On Jan. 22, a 72-year-old gunman entered a dance hall in Monterey Park during a Lunar New Year celebration and opened fire, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The shooting at a ballroom popular with older Asian Americans was the United States’ deadliest mass shooting since 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in May of last year and the deadliest mass shooting of 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks gun violence across the country.
There have been 109 mass shootings so far this year, according to the archive.
The violence in Monterey Park could have become much worse had the gunman not been disarmed at a second dance hall by 26-year-old Brandon Tsay, an employee whose grandparents owned the studio, before he could shoot anyone else. The gunman then fled and, following a day-long manhunt, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a parking lot about 30 miles away.
Biden honored Tsay at the State of the Union in February, calling on Congress to send gun control legislation to his desk.
“He saved lives. It’s time we do the same as well. Ban assault weapons once and for all,” Biden said. “We did it before. I led the fight to ban them in 1994.”
Biden’s focus on assault weapons echoes his work on the federal assault weapons ban nearly thirty years ago while in the Senate, part of the 1994 crime bill.
Last summer, Biden signed the most expansive gun violence legislation since then into law, which included provisions that intensified background checks for gun buyers aged 18 to 21 and expanded the gun purchasing ban for convicted domestic abusers to include dating partners not living with their victim, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
“We’re going to ban assault weapons again come hell or high water,” Biden said earlier this month at Democrats’ congressional retreat in Baltimore. “And high-capacity magazines. When we did it last time, it reduced mass death.”
A 2019 New York University School of Medicine study determined mass shooting fatalities were 70% less likely during the ten-year federal ban.
The gunman used a semi-automatic pistol called the Cobray CM-11, a variant of the MAC-10, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said in the days after the attack. Luna said investigators believed it was purchased in 1999 in Monterey Park, which would mean it was in violation of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban that lasted 10 years and California’s 1989 assault weapon ban in California.
Despite a Republican-controlled Congress and a slim Democratic majority in the Senate, senior administration officials expressed hope for future compromises and cited the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June, an unlikely political reality just months prior.
The bipartisan gun safety bill was passed last summer in the wake of mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. The White House expressed hope that both parties can support this executive order and come together on future gun safety legislation.
"We certainly hope that it will enjoy bipartisan support as we go forward today and the president makes his announcement, because the American people really need that, they need to see and they need to feel the impact of greater action on gun safety," Dalton said.
"The president will do everything in his power as the commander in chief to strengthen gun safety laws and strengthen executive orders to protect people in our communities and keep weapons of war off our streets, but there's a limit," she acknowledged. "The president will also continue to call on Congress to come to the table to reinstate an assault weapons ban and some of these other measures that we know would do a great deal to reduce gun violence in our communities."
Senior administration officials specifically cited the Buffalo mass shooting — where an 18-year-old targeted shoppers and workers at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood — as inspiration for another aspect of the executive order: creating a mechanism to address the needs of a community targeted by mass shootings.
No existing federal infrastructure currently exists to provide aid to communities after mass shootings, like there is for natural disasters, officials said. Biden plans to direct his cabinet to come up with a proposal to support affected communities’ needs, according to senior administration officials, including mental health care, financial assistance, and food — as could have been helpful in Buffalo, where the shooting closed down the neighborhood’s only grocery store.
The order will also include directing federal agencies to partner with law enforcement, health care providers, educators and community leaders to bring awareness and increase usage of so-called “red flag” laws in the 19 states and Washington, D.C., where they are on the books, according to senior administration officials. The law allows people to petition courts to temporarily take away firearms from individuals deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.
The president will instruct the Department of Transportation to work with the Department of Justice to combat the rising rate of firearms reported lost or stolen while shipped by licensed firearm dealers, senior administration officials said, citing federal data that shows a 250% increase in missing weapons between 2018 and 2022.
And Biden will direct federal law enforcement agencies to increase their usage of and establish “rigorous requirements” for data submission by agencies to the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, a database used by federal, state, and local law enforcement to match bullet casings to the guns they were fired from.
On Monday, Biden was in San Diego, meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to announce the sale of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia as part of a security alliance between the three nations.
The president will then be in Las Vegas Wednesday to discuss his proposal to lower prescription drug costs.