Biden issues executive order aimed at boosting background checks. Here's how it's meant to work.
It’s the latest attempt by the administration to address gun violence like the mass shooting that left 11 dead people dead in Monterey Park, Calif., in January.
President Biden on Tuesday issued an executive order aimed at increasing background checks by cracking down on firearm dealers who violate the law — the latest attempt by his administration to reduce gun violence.
Biden formally announced the executive actions in Monterey Park, Calif., after meeting with first responders and families of the victims of the deadly mass shooting that left 11 people dead and nine others wounded at a ballroom dance studio during a Lunar New Year celebration.
It was Biden's first visit to the tight-knit Asian American community since the Jan. 21 massacre. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Monterey Park on Jan. 25, stopping at a memorial outside the dance studio, where she offered her condolences on behalf of Biden and the administration.
The president relayed personal stories about each of the deceased victims, saying they represented “who we are as Americans.”
“We remember and mourn,” Biden said, “But I’m here with you today to act.”
Here’s everything we know about the new executive order, and where it fits in the president’s ongoing efforts to curb gun violence.
What has Biden done so far?
Last year, following the mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, legislation that bolstered mental health, school safety and crisis intervention programs, and closed the so-called boyfriend loophole, under which unmarried people convicted of domestic abuse could still obtain weapons.
But the package did not include many of the tougher restrictions advocates have been calling for, including banning AR-15-style rifles, raising the purchasing age on such weapons to 21 or background checks for all gun transactions.
The new executive order is meant to move the United States “as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation,” according to the White House, which noted that Biden has taken “more executive action to reduce gun violence than any other president at this point in their presidency.”
What does this executive order do?
It directs Attorney General Merrick Garland to make sure firearms sellers “who do not realize they are required to run background checks” or “are willfully violating existing law” become compliant with background check requirements.
"It's just common sense to check whether someone is a felon or domestic abuser before they buy a gun," Biden said Tuesday.
It is also intended to “improve public awareness” of extreme risk protection orders laws that already exist in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The so-called red flag laws allow community members to petition a court to intervene when someone is considered dangerous, and then to temporarily remove that individual’s access to firearms.
It also directs Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the Justice Department to work together to reduce the loss or theft of firearms during shipment. According to data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the number of firearms reported as lost or stolen during shipment between federally licensed firearms dealers has grown more than 250 percent over the last four years.
In addition, the executive orders are aimed at “accelerating federal law enforcement’s reporting of ballistics data,” improving federal support for gun violence survivors, victims, families and first responders, and advancing “congressional efforts to prevent the proliferation of firearms undetectable by metal detectors.”
Biden is also encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report analyzing how gun manufacturers market firearms to minors and civilians, including through the use of military imagery.
What do gun control activists think about the executive order?
“President Biden’s executive order is bold, sweeping, and will save thousands of lives,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who helped shepherd the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that Biden signed into law last summer.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., founder of a national advocacy group to end gun violence, applauded Biden’s newly announced executive order.
“For years, the American people have demanded leadership from Washington, and this White House has answered the call,” Giffords said in a statement. “More must be done, but there’s no telling how many lives will be saved thanks to the meaningful actions announced today.”
Peter Ambler, the Giffords organization’s executive director, said that “today’s announcement, coming less than a year after enactment of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, cements President Biden’s legacy as the first modern president to consistently and comprehensively take on the gun lobby.”
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, called Biden's move a "home run for public safety."
“This is the latest example of President Biden’s leadership on gun safety,” Feinblatt said in a statement. “And we’re proud to stand with him as he takes robust action to help close the gun-seller loophole — which will significantly expand background checks on gun sales, keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people and save lives.”
What about gun rights activists?
The National Rifle Association issued a statement sharply criticizing Biden's move.
“Crimes are committed by criminals,” the NRA said. “Until President Biden and his allies decide to go after violent criminals, violence will continue to spiral out of control as it has. The focus of our laws and efforts should be on the criminal element and not on law-abiding Americans.”
“Here he goes infringing on our Second Amendment rights,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., wrote on Twitter. “This will be challenged in court.”
“Joe Biden is signing more ‘gun control’ exec. orders today to attack our Second Amendment rights,” Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., tweeted. “We have a Crime Crisis because leftist DAs catch-and-release & refuse to prosecute criminals. The left wants to Defund The Police & disarm law-abiding citizens. We must DEFEND 2A!”
The American Firearms Association called Biden’s executive order an attack on Second Amendment rights, adding: “What have Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans done for gun owners in the new majority? NOTHING!”
Biden concluded his remarks in Monterey Park by reiterating his call for Congress to ban assault weapons.
“Do it now,” Biden said. “Enough. Do something. Do something big.”