President Biden traveled to Monterey Park, California, Tuesday, where he met with family members of the victims of the Lunar New Year mass shooting in January that killed 11 people and left nine wounded. While there, he announced a new executive order to increase background checks prior to firearms sales, a measure the White House says will move the US “as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation.” In addition, the order promotes adoption and awareness of “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who may be a danger to themselves or others, and directs the Cabinet to “develop a proposal for how the federal government can better support communities after a mass shooting,” much like the way the government coordinates emergency responses to natural disasters.
Here’s video of Biden’s remarks in Monterey Park;
It’s worth a listen; Biden briefly names and says a little about each of the victims, doing that absolutely necessary work of public mourning for which he’s had too much practice.
Biden also led a standing ovation for Brandon Tsay, the hero who disarmed the shooter at the second dance studio that night, preventing him from hurting anyone else. Tsay was also Biden’s guest at the State of the Union address this year.
As he wrapped up, Biden departed from his usual “God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.” Instead, he simply said, “God bless you all. I admire you so damn much.”
Whew. We’re not crying, you are, etc.
As for the executive order itself, if you were hoping for sweeping gun reforms, the bad news is that without Congress passing new legislation, there’s a limited number of options the executive branch can take. For that reason, the order mostly involves a number of measures that may not seem terribly exciting in themselves, but which will basically tune up existing gun laws to make sure they’re doing all they can to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have ’em.
For instance, while Congress would need to pass new laws to truly bring about universal background checks, the executive order aims to ensure that all background checks required by federal law actually take place, because frankly, they don’t. The order directs Attorney General Merrick Garland to
do everything he can to ensure that firearms 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 … by clarifying, as appropriate, the statutory definition of who is “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms, as updated by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
That’s the modest gun reform law that was able to get some Republican votes last summer, following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The AG will also come up with a plan to keep former licensed firearm dealers who’ve lost their licenses from dealing in arms anymore.
The order notes that red flag laws — now in place in 19 states and DC — can be an effective way to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people, but only if people know how they work in their states. The order calls on Cabinet members to coordinate “with law enforcement, health care providers, educators, and other community leaders” on improving community awareness of how and when such extreme risk protective orders can be better used.
Another section of the order directs the Transportation and Justice Departments to work on reducing the loss or theft of firearms that are being shipped from one federally licensed dealer to another. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reports that the number of firearms going missing in transit has increased some 250 percent in recent years, going from about 1,700 in 2018 to 6,100 in 2022. It would be a good idea to keep all those guns out of the illegal firearms market!
To make the gun industry more accountable, the order tasks Garland with releasing information, wherever possible, on ATF inspections of gun dealers who have violated federal laws, with the goal of reducing “rogue gun dealers” who play fast and loose with the rules.
Another section asks the Federal Trade Commission to prepare a report “analyzing how gun manufacturers market firearms to minors and how such manufacturers market firearms to all civilians, including through the use of military imagery.” Yeah, get ready for the NRA to cry great big tears about how Biden’s coming for gun advertisers’ free speech, not to mention their “man cards.”
Finally, there’s that call for the Cabinet to come up with a proposal that would work a bit like FEMA, but for mass shootings, because Crom knows we’ll keep having them in our Republic of Guns. We’ll just go with the White House Fact Sheet on this one:
When a mass shooting overwhelms a community, no coordinated U.S. government mechanism exists to meet short- and long-term needs, such as mental health care for grief and trauma, financial assistance (for example, when a family loses the sole breadwinner or when a small business is shut down due to a lengthy shooting investigation), and food (for example, when the Buffalo shooting closed down the only grocery store in the neighborhood). The President is directing members of his Cabinet to develop a proposal for how the federal government can better support communities after a mass shooting, and identify what additional resources or authorities the executive branch would need from Congress to implement this proposal.
That proposal got enthusiastic applause from the audience in Monterey Park, particularly the call for greater provision of mental health care in communities where a mass shooting takes place.
We’d like to think that the very idea of needing a “Mass Shooting FEMA” might shock at least a few Republicans into doing something about the goddamn guns, but we’re more worried that they’ll insist the private sector would do a better job. Maybe contract it out to the NRA.
[White House / AP]
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