What happened? On Tuesday, President Joe Biden issued an executive order to increase background checks and boost federal support for “red flag” laws. He announced the order in a speech at Monterey Park, California, where 11 people died in a mass shooting in January. The order is meant to enhance a bipartisan gun control bill he signed into law last June, which primarily expanded background checks but fell short of Biden’s calls to ban “assault weapons.”
The order’s contents: The order calls for a crackdown on arms dealers who aren’t performing required background checks to prevent illegal gun sales. It also urges federal agencies to promote red flag laws, which controversially allow authorities to confiscate guns from people they deem to be threats. The order will also expand ballistic data reporting, seek to reduce the theft and loss of firearms, and scrutinize gun manufacturers’ marketing strategies.
What’s new? Federal legislation already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks before sales. Additionally, many states require background checks for sales by unlicensed dealers, and 14 states plus Washington, D.C., require universal background checks. Biden’s executive order moves “the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible” because it calls for the attorney general to crack down on all the areas where background checks could be absent.
Implications: President Biden has repeatedly called for a ban on “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines, repeating that sentiment on Tuesday and calling on Congress to pass more restrictive federal gun legislation. With the Republican majority in the House, however, it seems unlikely any such legislation would be passed any time soon, which is likely why Biden resorted to an executive order instead.