Albuquerque Journal

‘Do something. Do something big’

Biden’s gun control rhetoric has grown ever stronger


MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — The grief is still suffocatin­g, the anger still visceral, President Joe Biden said Tuesday, in this suburban Los Angeles community where a gunman stormed a dance hall and killed 11 in January. He announced fresh federal measures to curb gun violence, but declared emotionall­y there must be more.

“Do something. Do something big,” he implored.

“I’m determined to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Biden told the families of some of the victims who were in the audience, along with the 26-year-old who wrested the semiautoma­tic pistol away from the gunman.

Biden’s rhetoric about guns has grown ever stronger — he routinely calls for banning assault weapons — in pushing a gun-control platform even tougher than during the Obama administra­tion. He has been emboldened by the midterm elections when his regular talk of gun control did not result in massive Democratic losses, and he’s expected to continue to argue for strong changes as he moves toward a 2024 reelection run, his aides say. “We remember and mourn today,” Biden said in Monterey Park. “But I’m here with you today to act.”

The president told the crowd he’d signed an executive order to stiffen background checks on gun purchases, promote more secure firearms storage and ensure law enforcemen­t agencies get more out of a bipartisan gun control law enacted last summer.

But Biden has only limited power to go beyond that legislatio­n, passed after the killings of 10 shoppers at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store, and 19 students and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.

His action Tuesday does not change government policy. But, it does direct federal agencies to ensure compliance with existing laws and procedures — a typical feature of executive orders issued by presidents when they confront the limits of their power to act without cooperatio­n from Congress.

Using emotion to press Congress to act, he detailied the lives of Monterey Park victims: A dancehall manager who walked patrons to their cars after lessons. An adventurer ready for the next trip abroad. A devoted grandparen­t.

Biden, whose own familiarit­y with grief is well known, touched on the everyday things he said hurt so much after the initial shock is gone; the way a closet still smells like a loved one, the sound of a laugh, the bend of a smile.

The victims in Monterey Park, where 20 were shot after Lunar New Year celebratio­ns, were older Asian Americans, mostly in their 60s and 70s. Biden said they represente­d a powerful vision of America: “Our diversity is the strength of this nation.”

His Tuesday order directs the Cabinet to complete a plan to better structure government to support communitie­s affected by gun violence. If the Federal Emergency Management Agency can respond to natural disasters with on-the-ground support, the government should be able to do the same for a mass shooting, he said. More mental health support for grief and trauma, and financial aid for victims and businesses forced to close during lengthy police investigat­ions.

He is directing Attorney General Merrick Garland to shore up rules for federally licensed gun dealers, so they know they are required to perform background checks.

He is also mandating better reporting of ballistics data from federal law enforcemen­t for a clearingho­use that allows federal, state and local law enforcemen­t to match shell casings to guns.

The president is also asking the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report analyzing how gun manufactur­ers market to minors and the general public.

Biden said he’d direct his Cabinet to make sure both law enforcemen­t agencies and citizens understand red-flag laws, which are intended to temporaril­y remove guns from people with potentiall­y violent behavior to prevent them from hurting themselves or others. Last month, the Justice Department sent more than $200 million to help states and the District of Columbia administer those laws and other crisis-interventi­on programs.

 ?? EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? President Joe Biden speaks on March 14 about efforts to reduce gun violence at The Boys and Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley in Monterey Park, California.
EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS President Joe Biden speaks on March 14 about efforts to reduce gun violence at The Boys and Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley in Monterey Park, California.

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