Biden wants to boost background checks on gun buyers. But it’s hard without Congress

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WASHINGTON (NPR) — President Biden will sign a new executive order on Tuesday during a visit to Monterey Park, Calif., that the White House says could boost the number of background checks that are supposed to take place before a gun is purchased.

People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of a deadly mass shooting on Jan. 24 in Monterey Park, Calif.
People attend a candlelight vigil for victims of a deadly mass shooting on Jan. 24 in Monterey Park, Calif. President Biden will announce his latest gun safety push there on Tuesday. [Mario Tama | Getty Images]
The order calls on the attorney general and other administration officials to come up with a plan to deal with firearm sellers who are avoiding doing the background checks, or who do not realize they are required to do them.

Biden’s visit to Monterey Park comes after a mass shooting in January killed 11 and injured nine during Lunar New Year celebrations. Two days later, another shooting in Half Moon Bay, Calif. killed seven. By some counts, there have been more than 100 mass shootings in 2023 so far.

The White House says Biden will continue to call on Congress to pass legislation to close loopholes in the background check system, though that is unlikely to happen given that Republicans control the House of Representatives.

“In the meantime, he wants the federal government to be doing all we can with existing authority to reduce gun violence and that’s what this executive order does,” a senior administration official told reporters.

The White House said the attorney general will determine the specifics of the plan, so there are no details yet on how the administration will increase background checks or what the timeline for the plan is. The attorney general is also tasked with coming up with a strategy to prevent federally licensed firearms dealers whose licenses have been revoked or surrendered from continuing to sell firearms.

Biden will also call on members of his cabinet to work with law enforcement, health care providers and educators to help promote other ways to prevent shootings, including passing red flag laws and encouraging the safe storage of weapons. He also wants to find ways to provide government support for communities that have been impacted by mass shootings, the way the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supports communities after natural disasters.

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