President Biden signed an executive order on Tuesday aimed at “increasing the number of background checks conducted before firearm sales,” per a White House statement. The administration called the action “as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation.” The executive order also seeks to increase public knowledge of “red flag” orders, which allow people to “temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms” if they are found to be dangerous. Lastly, the order hopes to promote better firearm storage.
The order does not change any current laws, reports The Associated Press, and instead “directs federal agencies to ensure compliance with existing laws and procedures,” acknowledging that Congress is divided on the issue. “You’ll absolutely hear [Biden] call for legislation,” a White House official said. “But in the meantime, he wants the federal government to be doing all we can with existing authority to reduce gun violence and that’s what this executive order does.”
The president’s order builds on Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed in 2022, which required “anyone who sells guns for profit to be licensed and conduct background checks on buyers,” reports Politico. It was introduced as a response to the shooting in Uvalde, Texas. “He is directing key members of his Cabinet to develop a proposal for how we can structure the government to do a better job supporting those impacted by gun violence,” an administration official told reporters.
Biden announced his executive order in Monterey Park, the location of the Lunar New Year shooting that left 11 dead. He has emphasized that he ”will do everything he can to reduce gun violence and save lives.”
What are commentators saying?
The order is a “home run for public safety,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety told AP. He added that the action will “keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people and save lives.” Grassroots group Moms Demand Action commented that the law would “double down on the progress made” by the previous bill.
“Wielding his wide-ranging presidential powers are an important way the president can cut through congressional gridlock and demonstrate action on gun safety,” added David Hogg, co-founder of March for Our Lives and Parkland shooting survivor. “It’s the morally right thing to do, and it will win the youth vote in 2024.”
Nicole Lee Ndumele, senior vice president for Rights and Justice at the Center for American Progress believes the action will “curb both rampant mass shootings and daily gun violence.”
The National Association for Gun Rights, on the other hand, called the executive order Biden’s “latest unconstitutional escapade,” alleging on Twitter that it infringes on the Second Amendment. The new regulations will not reduce violent crime, the National Rifle Association argued. ”Until President Biden and his allies decide to go after violent criminals, violence will continue to spiral out of control as it has.”
What’s next for gun legislation?
Historically, Biden has referred to gun violence as an “epidemic,” making it a key issue during his campaign. The new executive order may succeed in more widely enforcing gun regulations without requiring legislation, however, “only Congress can impose many sweeping measures that gun control advocates have pushed for,” Alison Durkee writes for Forbes.
“These are not controversial solutions anywhere except for in Washington, D.C., in Congress,” a Biden administration official said. “The majority of kitchen tables across the country — they support universal background checks.” Biden said that he would “continue to call on the Congress to take additional action,” adding that his “administration will continue to do all that [it] can, within existing authority, to make our communities safer.”
The New York Times assesses that Biden’s timing on the order is linked to a potential re-election bid in an attempt “to win the support of voters who believe that the government should do more to limit gun violence.” Axios reports gun violence is still a pressing issue for American voters, citing a recent report by Brookings.
“Too many lives have been taken by gun violence,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “But [Biden] believes we need to do more.”