Two months after 11 people were killed and nine others injured in a mass shooting that rocked the city of Monterey Park, California, President Joe Biden recognized the “steadfast spirits” of much of the Asian American community by announcing a sweeping executive order to “accelerate” the work of his administration on gun reform.
“This is a close-knit community with intergenerational households and a deep respect for elders,” the president said in his speech at the Boys & Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley on March 14.
Through the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, and the “terrifying tragedy” as families celebrated the Lunar New Year, the community “became a symbol of hope and resilience, moving forward together, healing together.” added.
The community raised funds to pay for the funeral costs and provided counseling and translation services to the families of the victims, “proving that even with a heavy heart we have a steadfast spirit,” the president said.
He closed his remarks by calling on Congress to renew the federal assault weapons ban and “eliminate the arms manufacturer’s immunity from liability” as the number of US mass shootings in the first few months of 2023 has already reached over 100.
“Let’s finish the job,” he said. “Ban assault rifles. Do it again. Do something. Do something great.”
While Congress remains deadlocked, the president’s executive order aims to “get as close to universal background checks as possible” without legislation.
The president will need members of Congress to take all steps towards a so-called “universal” background check process for firearm sales and renewing the ban on the so-called assault weapons ban, which expired nearly 20 years ago. The newly Republican-controlled House of Representatives is unlikely to pass such a measure.
Last year, the president signed the Safe Bipartisan Communities Act, “the most important gun safety law in nearly 30 years,” according to Biden.
The order, announced on March 14, will “accelerate and intensify” the administration’s work to combat the proliferation of high-powered and illicit weapons “to save more lives faster,” Biden said.
The order directs U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to address the background check loophole by clarifying the definition of “business involvement” in selling firearms to better enforce a law Biden signed into law last year.
This law requires anyone selling guns for profit to have a license and do background checks on potential buyers. Clarification of the definition of a person “involved” in this type of activity in federal law is expected to broaden the scope of this review.
“It’s just common sense,” Biden said. “Check for domestic violence before buying a gun.”
The order also directs members of Biden’s cabinet and federal agencies to raise awareness about so-called “red flag” laws and measures that mandate secure containment.
The Federal Trade Commission will also be asked to submit a report that “analyzes and discloses how arms manufacturers aggressively sell firearms to civilians, especially minors,” Biden said.
Mr. Biden’s order also aims to help communities such as Monterey Park recover from indiscriminate violence, including support for mental health services and financial assistance if “a family loses its sole breadwinner or [if] a small business is shutting down due to … an investigation into the shooting,” the president said.
On January 23, a gunman shot at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio after a day-long Lunar New Year celebration in a nearby street.
The gunman, identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds during a scuffle with police the next day.
It marked the deadliest mass shooting in Los Angeles County in recent history.
The president thanked Brandon Tsay, a 26-year-old man hailed as a hero for stopping the gunman. Mr. Tsay, who was also the guest of Mr. Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the recent State of the Union address, greeted Mr. Biden as he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.
“Twenty minutes into the Star Ballroom rampage, Brandon saw the same shooter walk into his family’s dance studio just two miles away pointing a gun at him,” Biden said. “In an instant, he found the courage to act and snatch a semi-automatic firearm. Brandon saved my life. He protected the community“.
“The character of this community, the faith you have in this community, the pride – we see that in you throughout American life,” he added.
Two days after the Monterey Park massacre, seven people were killed in a mass shooting in Half Moon Bay, California.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have already been more than 100 mass shootings in the United States in the first three months of 2023. The organization also determined that the number of non-fatal shootings in the US reached 6,000 in the first two and a half months of 2023. At least 3,549 people died as a result of the shelling.
Gun reform advocacy groups welcomed the executive order, which Brady hailed as “significant progress” on the road to universal background checks.
“While ultimately we can only achieve universal background checks through congressional legislative action, President Biden’s announcement today brings us closer to that reality than any other president who has come before,” Brady President Kris Brown said in a statement.
Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived the 2011 assassination attempt and mass shooting, said in a statement via her advocacy group Giffords Law Center that “more needs to be done, but there is no telling how many lives will be saved by the significant actions announced today.”
Everytown for Gun Safety said the president’s executive order would improve “community safety, hold the gun industry and rogue gun dealers in our communities accountable, and save lives.” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, called the order a “life saver.”
Guns Down America also praised the order, but urged the White House to set up an Office for the Prevention of Gun Violence to “address the full extent of this crisis.”
This is an evolving story