Biden meets with families and victims of Monterey Park mass shooting and discusses efforts to curb gun violence
By Maegan Vazquez, CNN
(CNN) -- President Joe Biden delivered a speech in Monterey Park, California, on Tuesday, where he met with the families and victims of a January mass shooting in the area and launched a series of largely symbolic efforts to combat gun violence.
Although Biden has taken a number of actions before to curb gun violence, the president and his administration have publicly acknowledged that any further significant measures to address the issue will not be achieved without the approval of Congress. And legislative efforts have all but stalled in the face of Republican-controlled House and a nearly deadlocked Senate.
Biden's visit to the San Gabriel Valley of California comes two months after 11 people were killed and nine others were injured when a gunman opened fire at a dance studio in Monterey Park as the city's large Asian American community was celebrating the Lunar New Year weekend. There have been at least 110 mass shootings in the US so far this year, leaving more than 150 people dead and 400 injured, according data compiled by the nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive.
The president, delivering his speech at the Boys & Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley, Monterey Park, called the shooting "a tragedy that has pierced the soul of this nation" and that struck "the heart of the Asian American community."
"As a nation, remember them -- immigrants from China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan -- all of whom found home in America," Biden said of the victims, later adding, "They represent a bigger story -- who we are as Americans, embodying the simple truth that our diversity -- our diversity is the strength of this nation."
The president also acknowledged Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the Monterey Park mass shooter at his family's dance studio. After the shooting in January, the president called Tsay to thank him for his act of bravery, and he also acknowledged Tsay during February's State of the Union address.
As he laid out details of his new executive order, Biden also acknowledged that "none of this absolves Congress' responsibility from ... acting, to pass universal background checks, eliminate gun manufacturing immunity from liability. And I'm determined, once again, to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines."
As part of his new executive action, Biden is directing Attorney General Merrick Garland to ensure existing laws on background checks are being followed. The president on Tuesday claimed his order "directs my attorney general to take every lawful action possible to move us as close as we can to universal background checks without new legislation."
A senior administration official briefing press on the executive order said Biden would direct Garland to "clarify that statutory definition" of who is required to run background checks because some firearms dealers "may not realize that they fall under that statutory definition."
The administration argues that this move will 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 president called on his Cabinet to take several actions, including improving public awareness of so-called "red flag" laws and addressing the loss or theft of firearms during shipping.
Additionally, Biden said, the order "ramps up our efforts to hold the gun industry accountable" by establishing an independent government study "that analyzes and exposes how gun manufacturers aggressively market firearms to civilians, especially minors, including by using military imagery." The order directs Garland to publicly release inspection reports of firearms dealers who are cited for violations of the law.
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The president said the order also improves coordination among agencies to organize federal response to mass shootings in a way similar to how FEMA responds to natural disasters around the country.
Since taking office, Biden has issued executive actions to rein in so-called ghost guns, promote safe storage of firearms, bolster police forces and expand community violence intervention programs.
Last year, Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law -- the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the expired 10-year assault weapons ban of 1994. Among its many provisions, the law includes money for school safety, mental health, state crisis intervention programs and incentives for states to include juvenile records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which provides a more comprehensive background check for those between the ages of 18 and 21 who want to buy guns.
Biden helped usher in the a permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steve Dettelbach, after the agency went seven years without a permanent, Senate-approved leader at the helm.
The stop in Monterey Park is part of a larger West Coast swing this week, which the president is using to showcase his efforts to address a wide range of issues, such as health care and international defense. After California, Biden heads to Las Vegas later Tuesday where he will participate in a fundraiser with the Democratic National Committee.
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