Biden announces executive order to expand gun background checks, calls on lawmakers to go farther

President Biden on Tuesday announced a new executive order aimed at combating gun violence in the U.S. 

The president discussed these efforts during an afternoon speech in Monterey Park, California, the city where a gunman stormed a dance hall in January, killing 11 people and injuring others after a Lunar New Year celebration. 

After paying homage to the victims, Biden said the executive order would “accelerate and intensify” this work to saving “more lives more quickly.” 

The executive order aims to increase the number of background checks to buy guns, promote more secure firearms storage and ensure U.S. law enforcement agencies are getting the most out of a bipartisan gun control law enacted last summer.


The president’s order does not change U.S. government policy but directs federal agencies to ensure compliance with existing laws and procedures — a typical feature of executive orders issued by presidents when they confront the limits of their own power to act without cooperation from Congress.

The order directs the Cabinet to work on a plan to better structure the government to support communities suffering from gun violence. The plan calls on Attorney General Merrick Garland to shore up the rules for federally licensed gun dealers so they know they are required to do background checks as part of the license.

Biden is also mandating better reporting of ballistics data from federal law enforcement for a clearinghouse that allows federal, state and local law enforcement to match shell casings to guns. But local and state law enforcement agencies are not required to report ballistics data, and many do not, making the clearinghouse less effective.

And the president is asking the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report analyzing how gun manufacturers market to minors and use military images to market to the public.


Biden will also direct his Cabinet to make sure law enforcement agencies understand the benefits of the new law, particularly around red-flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, which are intended to temporarily remove guns from people with potentially violent behavior and prevent them from hurting themselves or others.

Biden’s rhetoric has only grown stronger around guns — he routinely calls for banning so-called assault weapons in his speeches. 

Still, the president’s power is limited to go beyond bipartisan legislation passed by Congress last summer, the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades. It followed the killings last year of 10 shoppers at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store and 19 students and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.

President Biden said he was determined to, one again, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. 

“I led that fight to ban them in 1994. The 10 years that law was in place, mass shootings, went down,” Biden said, before blaming Republican lawmakers for allowing it to expire 10 years later. 

“Mass shootings tripped since then,” Biden said. “So, let’s finish the job. Ban assault weapons. Ban them again. Do it now. Enough. Do something. Do something.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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