President Joe Biden delivered an emotional tribute to the victims of the Monterey Park, California, shooting on Tuesday as he introduced his latest executive order to combat gun violence, this one aimed at increasing the number of background checks done on gun purchases, and promoting safe gun storage, among other actions.
“I’m here on behalf of the American people, to mourn with you, to pray with you. To let you know you’re loved and not alone. Every case is different. But I know what it’s like. I know what that’s like to get that call,” Biden said in an empathetic address.
As has become common when he visits the sites of mass shootings, Biden cited each victim by name, sharing a bit about each person’s character and legacy. He also acknowledged the heroism of Brandon Tsay, who subdued the gunman to bring an end to the attack.
“Twenty minutes after the rampage at Star Ballroom, Brandon saw the same shooter walk into his family’s own dance studio just two miles away, pointing a gun at him,” Biden said. “In an instant, he found the courage to act and wrestle a semi-automatic fireware — arm — away. Brandon saved lives. He protected the community,” he said, eliciting loud applause and a standing ovation for Tsay, who also attended Biden’s State of the Union address in February.
The visit to Monterey Park came as Biden issued another executive action to address gun violence across the U.S., in addition to the sweeping bipartisan Safer Communities Act he signed into law last year, and previous executive actions.
Biden’s latest action will ask Attorney General Merrick Garland to better define who is “engaged in the business” of selling guns in an effort to increase the number of background checks run on purchases.
“It’s just common sense to check whether someone is a felon, a domestic abuser, before they buy a gun,” Biden said of the checks.
The action also looks to promote the use of so-called red flag laws, and safer storage of weapons by gun owners, as well as call for the public release of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms inspection reports of firearms dealers cited for violation of the law.
“That way policymakers can strengthen laws to crack down on those illegal gun dealers and the public can avoid purchasing from them,” Biden said.
Biden will also use the order to ask members of his Cabinet to develop a proposal for how the federal government should respond to communities impacted by gun violence.
“The same way FEMA responds to natural disasters in California and all around the nation … we need to provide more mental health support and grief, for grief and trauma, and more financial assistance when a family loses the sole breadwinner or when a small business shuts down due to a lengthy shooting investigation,” Biden proposed.
Yet, even with the new action that was announced Tuesday, Biden acknowledged he is limited by using executive authority alone, and it will require congressional action to enact significant change. He once again called for a ban on assault weapons, something he has repeatedly promised to achieve during his tenure but is virtually impossible given the balance of power in Congress.
“But let’s be clear, none of this absorbs Congress the responsibility from — from the responsibility of acting to pass universal background checks, eliminate gun manufacturers immunity from liability and I am determined once again to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. I led that fight in ban them in 1994,” he said.
“The ten years that law was in place, mass shootings went down. Our Republican friends let it expire,” Biden said. “Ten years later, and mass shootings tripled since then, tripled. So, let’s finish the job. Ban assault weapons ban them again. Do it now. Enough do something do something big.”
Biden’s calls for action have grown across his presidency as the country faces continued instances of mass shootings. According to the Gun Violence Archives, there have been 110 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year.
But given the divided Congress in Washington, passing significant legislation faces an uphill battle.
Biden also took a moment during the speech to note the achievements of Asian actors at Sunday night’s Oscars.
“Just this week a film about resilience and power of an Asian American immigrant family made history at the Oscars. Echoing the heart of so many in this community,” he said.