Bloomberg Law
March 14, 2023, 9:34 PM

Biden Outlines Gun Checks Order as He Implores Congress to Act

Akayla Gardner

President Joe Biden on Tuesday detailed a new executive order aimed at increasing background checks on gun purchases, an effort to address gun violence even as the prospects for further legislation in Congress remain dim.

Biden framed the order as an interim solution and implored lawmakers to approve universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons during an event in Monterey Park, California, where a gunman killed 11 people in January.

“Let’s be clear. None of this absolves Congress from the responsibility of acting to pass universal background checks,” said Biden. “Let’s finish the job. Ban assault weapons. Do something, do something big.”

In the order issued earlier Tuesday, Biden directed Attorney General Merrick Garland to pinpoint gun sellers who are not employing background checks now on the books — or may be evading them intentionally — invoking the limited authority of the executive branch to edge the country closer to universal background checks.

Gun control advocates have long raised concerns about a lack of safeguards involving firearms sold at gun shows or by online retailers. The order charges the Federal Trade Commission with compiling a report that examines firearm manufacturers’ marketing campaigns directed at minors.

Biden said his actions “will accelerate and intensify this work to save more lives more quickly.”

Tuesday’s order also asks cabinet members to devise an organized federal response that can be deployed in communities affected by a mass shooting. That could include mental health care and financial assistance if, say, small businesses are forced to shut down or if families lose people who provide their income, according to a White House fact sheet.

Biden commemorated the lives of the victims of the Monterey Park shooting, many of whom were immigrants from China, the Philippines and Vietnam, killed when a gunman opened fire during a Lunar New Year celebration in the majority Asian-American community.

Biden called the shooting “a tragedy that has pierced the soul of this nation.”

“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,” Biden said.

Earlier: Biden Honors California Shooting Victims at Lunar New Year Event

But the executive order and Biden’s remarks highlighted the difficult political landscape he faces.

Biden has pleaded for Congress to ban all sales of assault weapons in the country and approve universal background checks, measures which are opposed by most Republicans, who, as of January, hold a House majority.

Last year, when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, Congress passed the first nationwide gun-control legislation in 30 years, implementing changes to improve the national background-check system for gun purchasers under 21, and close the so-called boyfriend loophole that allowed dating partners convicted of domestic abuse to buy guns. But further gun restrictions are unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled House.

As of March 13, there have been 109 mass shootings in the US this year alone, according to data collected by the Gun Violence Archive. That’s compared to 85 mass shootings by the same date last year, the archive found.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, helped launch Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for universal background checks and other gun-control measures.

--With assistance from Josh Wingrove.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Akayla Gardner in Washington at;
Jenny Leonard in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Mario Parker at

Meghashyam Mali, Kathleen Hunter

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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