Joe Biden proposed a new slate of executive measures aimed at decreasing gun violence and the proliferation of weapons sold to prohibited people on Tuesday.
The president spoke at a community center in Monterey Park, California, where he met with victims’ families and community members who had been devastated by a horrific shooting in January that took 11 lives and injured nine others in the city’s downtown.
Biden opened his statement with a somber homage to the victims of Star Dance Studio, as well as Brandon Tsay, an employee of another ballroom dancing hall who stopped the attacker before he could start shooting at a second site.
“We all saw a day of festivity and light turn into a day of fear and darkness. A holiday of hope and possibility marked by horror and pain … a sense of safety shattered,” Biden told the crowd. “Survivors will always carry the physical and emotional scars.”
According to polls, a majority of Democrats and Republicans support universal background checks that would reveal if a person is a convicted criminal or a domestic abuser before allowing them to buy a weapon. Nevertheless, with Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, there is little chance that Congress would listen to Biden’s pleas to pass legislation.
During a trip through California, the president will accept this political reality and issue an executive order to enforce existing rules against gun sellers who, knowingly or unintentionally, refuse to do the relevant background checks, according to the BBC.
A senior administration source told reporters on a conference call that last year’s bipartisan gun safety legislation, the most comprehensive in three decades, “created an opening” for Biden to direct the attorney general to move the US as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation.
He will ask Garland to clarify the statutory definition of who is “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms, the official said. “Number one, to make it clear that those who are wilfully violating the law need to come into compliance with the law and, number two, to make it clear to people who may not realize that, under that statutory definition they are indeed in the business of selling firearms, they must become federally licensed firearm dealers and they must run background checks before gun sales.”
According to the administration, this will result in fewer guns being sold without background checks, and hence fewer guns ending up in the hands of criminals and domestic abusers. Garland will also devise a strategy to prevent gun dealers with revoked or surrendered licenses from continuing to trade.
Biden is also instructing his administration to create protocols to help those who survive and are directly harmed by mass shootings, including both high-profile and far fewer incidents. This year, the United States has already seen more than 100 mass shootings.
Several states have victim compensation programs in existence to pay victims of violent crimes such as assault, robbery, and homicide, and the Department of Justice provides funds for states to distribute after mass violence through the antiterrorism and emergency assistance program.