President Biden on Tuesday announced an executive order that aims to increase the number of background checks conducted before gun sales, cracking down on firearms dealers who violate federal law.
The goal of the executive order, unveiled during a Biden visit to Monterey Park, Calif., is to move the U.S. as close to a system of universal background checks for all gun sales as possible without requiring legislation from Congress. Biden has called for Congress to pass universal background checks, but such legislation is a non-starter in the GOP-controlled House.
“I’m here with you today to act,” Biden said to the audience in Monterey Park after talking about each victim of the shooting in the town on Jan. 21.
The order will direct Attorney General Merrick Garland to ensure that gun sellers “who do not realize they are required to run background checks under existing law, or who are willfully violating existing law, become compliant with background check requirements,” according to a fact sheet released by the White House.
“It’s just common sense to check whether someone is a felon, domestic abuser before they buy a gun,” Biden said on Tuesday.
Last year’s bipartisan gun legislation, which Biden signed into law in June, updated the statutory definition of who is “engaged in the business” of dealing guns, and the attorney general will be directed to clarify that definition for dealers.
The president will ask the attorney general to develop and implement a plan to prevent former federally licensed firearms dealers whose licenses have been revoked or surrendered from continuing to sell guns.
The order will also increase the use of “red flag laws,” which allow a judge to take away a firearm from someone based on the suspicion that they could use it to harm themselves or others. Biden will direct members of his Cabinet to partner with law enforcement, health care providers, educators and other community leaders to encourage the effective use of red flag laws in the states that have them.
And Cabinet members will be directed to as expand existing federal campaigns to promote safe storage of guns.
The order also aims to strengthen efforts to hold the gun industry accountable and accelerate law enforcement efforts to identify and apprehend shooters. Biden will direct Garland to publicly release records so that the public and policymakers have information about federally licensed gun dealers who are violating the law.
Additionally, the president will call on the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report analyzing how gun manufacturers market to minors when selling guns. He will also direct Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to work to reduce the loss or theft of guns during shipments between federally licensed dealers.
Eleven people were killed on Jan. 21 in Monterey Park in a predominately Asian American community after a Lunar New Year festival. The gunman was found dead after apparently shooting himself after being surrounded by police in nearby Torrance, Calif.
In the wake of the shooting and others so far this year, Biden has called for Congress to move on more gun control legislation, but House Republicans have shown no appetite to do so. He frequently calls for Congress to pass an assault weapons and high-capacity magazine ban, which he reiterated on Tuesday.
“I’m determined once again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. I led that fight to ban them in 1994. In the 10 years that law was in place, mass shootings went down,” Biden said, referring to the assault weapons ban former President Clinton signed into law that expired after 10 years.
“Let’s finish the job, ban assault weapons. Ban them again. Do it now. Enough. Do something, do something big,” Biden added.
He has also called for legislation to require safer storage for firearms, close the dating violence loophole and repeal immunity from liability for gun manufacturers.
Updated 5:09 p.m.