President Joe Biden, speaking from Monterey Park, Calif. on Tuesday, said he plans to issue a new executive order to combat gun violence — less than two months after a mass shooting during Lunar New Year celebrations rocked that community.
Biden’s order will direct Justice Department officials to increase the use of background checks for gun buyers and promoting safe storage of firearms. It will also call for working with law enforcement to ensure the bipartisan gun control law passed last year, following mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, is being put to full use.
The order will ask the U.S. Attorney General’s office to take whatever regulatory actions are available to get the U.S. as close to implementing universal background checks as possible without congressional approval.
“Let’s be clear: None of this absolves Congress’s responsibility to act, to pass universal background check, eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability,” Biden said, adding he was “determined, once again, to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
The president’s power to enact change is limited without Congress passing new gun laws. Though the 2022 gun law was the first major legislation on the issue passed in nearly 30 years, Biden said when signing it that it did not go as far as he’d like. It expanded gun purchase background checks on people ages 18 to 21, outlined incentives for states to pass red flag laws allowing individuals to petition courts to remove weapons from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, and closed the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” preventing domestic abusers from owning guns.
But the White House says the number of mass shootings in 2023 alone shows it did not go far enough. On Jan. 21, a gunman killed 11 people and injured nine others at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park following a Lunar New Year celebration, marking the deadliest shooting in Los Angeles County’s history. The gunman then drove to a second dance studio, where he was disarmed.
Biden, whose life has been struck by grief after losing his first wife and daughter in a car crash and later his son Beau Biden to cancer, spoke directly to the loved ones affected by the tragedy.
“As we gather here today, I know your hearts are broken but your spirits are strong,” Biden said. “It takes time but I promise you, I promise you, the day will come when the memory of your loved one brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. My prayer for all of you is that day will come sooner than later, but I promise you it will come.”
There have been at least 110 mass shootings in the United States in the two and a half months of 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. More than 8,300 Americans have died due to gun violence since the beginning of the year alone, the organization’s data says.