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Biden seeks to expand gun background checks with new executive order

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Tuesday designed to increase background checks in a visit to a Los Angeles suburb that was the site of a mass shooting this year.

Biden issued the order shortly before a trip to Monterey Park, where 11 people were killed in January at a gathering for Lunar New Year celebrations.

“We all saw a day and festivity and light turned into a day of fear and darkness,” Biden said in remarks Tuesday afternoon where he read the names of the mass shooting victims.

“I’m here with you today to act,” Biden said.

The executive order directs Attorney General Merrick Garland to clarify the statutory definition of who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms, an authority the administration official said was detailed in sweeping bipartisan gun legislation Biden signed into law last year after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

“This news would mean fewer guns will be sold without background checks, and therefore fewer guns will end up in the hands of felons and domestic abusers,” the official said on a call with reporters previewing the order.

The National Instant Background Check System carried out more than 31 million background checks on people looking to own firearms or explosives last year, FBI data shows.

The administration official said it is not clear how many new background checks the executive order would result in.

“It’s just common sense,” Biden said Tuesday. “To check whether someone is a felon and domestic abuser before they buy a gun.”

The order also urges members of Biden’s Cabinet to promote effective use of extreme risk protection orders, or “red flag” laws, in 19 states and Washington, D.C., by partnering with law enforcement agencies, health care providers and educators.

Through the order, Biden also encourages the Federal Trade Commission to compile a report examining how gun manufacturers market firearms, including to minors.

The newly divided Congress appears unlikely to tackle any more gun bills after it passed the sweeping bipartisan bill last year. That measure provides grants to states for red flag laws, expands background checks to include juvenile records and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole by keeping guns away from unmarried dating partners convicted of abuse. In addition, it requires enhanced background checks for people ages 18 to 21 and funding for youth mental health services.

Biden signed the bill just two days after the Supreme Court overturned a law limiting concealed carry permits.

In Tuesday’s remarks, Biden also touted his 2024 budget proposal, which was sent to Congress last week. The White House has highlighted proposed funding for crime prevention as a potential point of agreement with congressional Republicans.

“Last week I laid out on my budget that we invest more in safer communities and expand access to mental health services for those affected by gun violence,” Biden said. “Congressional Republicans should pass my budget instead of calling for cuts of these services or defunding the police or abolishing the FBI as we hear from our MAGA Republican friends.”

Biden last month urged Congress to act on guns in his State of the Union address, when he honored guest Brandon Tsay, who helped take down the Monterey Park suspect.

“We know our work is not done,” Biden said at the time. “Let’s finish the job and ban these assault weapons.”

Biden on Tuesday reiterated his call for Congress to ban so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, a goal he was not able to achieve even when Democrats controlled both chambers.

“Let’s be clear, none of this absolves Congress from the responsibility of acting, to pass universal background checks, eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability,” Biden said. “I’m determined once again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines.”