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Biden Signs Executive Order on Guns to Enhance Background Checks

The president signed the executive order in Monterey Park, California, where a mass shooting happened in January.

President Joe Biden speaks at the Finishing Trades Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 9, 2023.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order to address gun violence on Tuesday in Monterey Park, California, where, in January, a gunman shot 20 people, killing 11, during a Lunar New Year celebration.

Biden’s order will aim to promote secure storage of firearms and increase the number of background checks conducted each year. It will do so within the framework of the Safer Communities Act, a law that passed with bipartisan support during the previous congressional session.

The order will require Biden Cabinet officials to develop a plan to better coordinate support to communities affected by gun violence. It will specifically mandate that Attorney General Merrick Garland develop more clear-cut rules to ensure that federally licensed gun dealers are conducting background checks.

As a result of the executive order, “fewer guns will be sold without background checks, and therefore fewer guns will end up in the hands of [people who have been convicted of felonies] and domestic abusers,” a White House official told members of the media on a conference call ahead of Biden’s visit to Monterey Park.

Under the terms of the order, Garland and the Department of Justice (DOJ) will have to clarify the definition of who is “engaged in the business” of selling guns, which could increase the regulation of gun sales across the country.

The order will also require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to compile a public report on how the gun industry is marketing to minors and using military imagery to market to the public at large.

The Safer Communities Act, which was signed into law in June of last year, is a far cry from what gun reform advocates had been calling for, as it fails to address the root causes of gun violence in the U.S. or hold the gun lobby accountable for firearms-related deaths.

The bill increased funding for mental health and so-called school safety measures. It also enhanced background checks for gun purchases by those under the age of 21 and created incentives for states to fund “red flag laws,” which allow judges to order that people’s weapons be confiscated if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Racial justice advocates pointed out during debate on the bill that it would emphasize implementing new criminal penalties and enhancing existing ones, which have been selectively enforced by police and other agencies to criminalize Black, Latinx, and other marginalized communities. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), for example, noted that the law focused on “increased criminalization and juvenile criminalization instead of having the focus on guns.”

“If we’re talking about just using this as an excuse to dramatically increase an enforcement mechanism that we know is not capable, right now, of preventing mass shootings, then I’m not really interested in doing something for show for the American public,” she said of the bill.

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