Biden signs executive order to increase background checks, eyes universal background checks

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

Tuesday, President Joe Biden used his trip to the site of a January mass shooting to announce the signing of an executive order that will enhance background checks and further define terms associated with red-flag laws and the sale of firearms. The order seeks to thread the needle of enacting strict background checks without the need for congressional approval.

“We remember and mourn today, but I am here with you today to act,” Biden told the people gathered in Monterey Park, California, site of a Lunar New Year mass shooting that left 11 people dead. 

He then announced the signing of an executive order Biden said meant he had signed “more executive actions to reduce gun violence than any of my predecessors at this point in their presidencies.”

“[This] executive order helps keep firearms out of dangerous hands, as I continue to call on Congress to require background checks for all firearm sales,” Biden said. “And in the meantime … my executive order directs [Attorney General] Merrick Garland] to take every lawful action possible — possible to move us as close as we can to universal background checks without new legislation.”

And Biden definitely wants new legislation. A central theme of his speech and the executive order was a call to Congress to send a stricter gun law to his desk, the theory being a new law will reduce gun violence. 

“Crimes are committed by criminals,” a tweet from the NRA’s official account reads. “Until President Biden and his allies decide to go after violent criminals, violence will continue to spiral out of control as it has. The focus of our laws and efforts should be on the criminal element and not on law-abiding Americans.”

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the president’s announcement wasn’t that he made it. Biden is correct in his conclusion that he, more than any previous president, has taken frequent action in the area of gun law. 

Rather, it was Republicans’ general lack of comment that proved something of a shock.

Likely owing to the fact that Biden’s executive order primarily directs various federal entities – Homeland Security, the Department of Defence, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, etc. – to conduct various assessments and make reports while also generally restating the elements of a bipartisan gun law that was passed last year, few Republican officials commented.

The key components of the order, at least for gun owners and potential gun owners, deal with background checks, which are largely supported by conservatives. 

A sticking point, though, and one likely bound for court, is Biden’s directive making it easier to sue gun manufacturers. Additionally, his order further defined who counts as the legal seller of a firearm, which is almost certain to face blowback.

“[The] executive order ramps up our efforts to hold the gun industry accountable,” Biden said. “It’s the only outfit you can’t sue these days.  It does that by calling out for an independent government study that analyzes and exposes how gun manufacturers aggressively market firearms to civilians, especially minors, including by using military imagery.”

Although she did not specify why, Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert predicted Biden’s executive order would eventually not pass the gun-owner smell test. 

“And here he goes infringing on our Second Amendment rights. This will be challenged in court,” Boebert tweeted

Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie, among the stauncher gun-rights advocates in the House, did not comment on the president’s executive order on Tuesday. However, on Monday, Massie continued what has become a monthslong crusade against a proposed Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms policy that would outlaw certain types of pistol brace.

“The ATF’s pistol brace rule means law-abiding Americans are going to become felons because unelected executive branch bureaucrats are making “law” for a president who hates guns,” Massie tweeted. “We need to restore lawmaking authority to the legislative branch as our Founders intended.”

Biden, though, said it was time for the nation to crack down on gun violence. One of his strategies to achieve this, beyond the aforementioned policies, is to have Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg collaborate with the Department of Justice and develop a program that will help prevent firearms from being stolen during shipping. 

Neither the president nor Buttigieg offered any concrete explanations as to how this will work.