President Joe Biden speaks in Monterey Park, California about gun violence on March 14,2023. He spoke with the families of victims of a mass shooting at the Star Dance Studio on Lunar New Year that occured less than a mile from where the President spoke. (Maxim Elramsisy | California Black Media)
WRITTEN BY MAXIM ELRAMSISY | CALIFORNIA BLACK MEDIA
On his trip to California last week, President Biden first stopped in San Diego to meet with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The heads of state have formed a strategic alliance to scale up military technology intended to protect interests in the China Sea, an important trade route.
Biden then traveled up the coast to Monterey Park approximately seven miles east of downtown Los Angeles where he met with families of the victims of the mass shooting at Star Dance Studio, where 11 people were killed and nine injured during a Lunar New Year Celebration on Jan. 21.
“I’m here on behalf of the American people, to mourn with you, to pray with you, to let you know you are loved and not alone,” Biden said in the gymnasium of a Boys & Girls Club half a mile from the site of the shooting. “I know what it’s like to get that call. I know what it’s like to lose a loved one so suddenly. It’s like losing a piece of your soul.”
Biden announced an executive order to enhance background checks on firearm buyers.
“My executive 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,” President Biden said.
“The Executive Order also expands public awareness red flag laws,” Biden continued. “So, more parents, teachers, police offices, health providers and counselors know how to flag for the court that someone is exhibiting violent tendencies, threating classmates, or experiencing suicidal thoughts that make them a danger to themselves or others and temporarily remove that person’s access to firearms.”
The executive order also aims to hold the gun industry accountable by providing the public and policymakers with more information regarding federally licensed firearms dealers who are violating the law.
“The President is directing the Attorney General to publicly release, to the fullest extent permissible by law, ATF records from the inspection of firearms dealers cited for violation of federal firearm laws. This information will empower the public and policymakers to better understand the problem, and then improve our laws to hold rogue gun dealers accountable,” the White House said in a statement.
The President has also called on the Federal Trade Commission to perform “an independent government study that analyzes and exposes how gun manufacturers aggressively market firearms to civilians, especially minors, including by using military imagery.”
In addition, the Executive Order addresses federal law enforcement’s reporting of ballistics data, and the implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA). That law was passed in 2022 after a man with racist ideology killed 10 Black people and injured 3 at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. Soon after that incident, an 18-year-old lone gunman killed 21 and injured 17 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
“None of this absolves Congress of the responsibility of acting to pass universal background checks, eliminate gun manufacturers immunity from liability. I am determined, once again, to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” Biden told the Monterey Park audience.
Congresswoman Judy Chu(D-CA-28), a former mayor of Monterey Park, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis (1st District), and Sen. Alex Padilla spoke at the event preceding the President. Several members of Monterey Park’s local government and city council attended the event.
As part of his broader strategy to tackle gun violence, the President announced an initiative to improve federal support for survivors, victims’ and survivors’ families, first responders to gun violence, and communities affected by gun violence.
“We need to provide more mental health support for grief and trauma. And more financial assistance when a family loses the sole breadwinner or when a business has to shut down for a lengthy shooting investigation,” Biden said.
The Executive Order calls for Congress to prevent the proliferation of firearms undetectable by metal detectors by making permanent the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, which is currently set to expire in December 2023.
President Biden also acknowledged Brandon Tsay, who disarmed the shooter, thwarting a second attack at his family's dance studio in Alhambra. Tsay, who was President Biden’s guest at his State of the Union Address this year, met the president as he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport.
President Biden's trip comes as gun violence deaths (including all causes) are trending higher in the first three months of 2023 than the recent high in 2022, according to The Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection and research group.
“I led the fight to ban them in 1994. The ten years that law was in place, mass shootings went down. My republican friends let it expire, and mass shootings tripled since then,” Biden said. “Let's finish the job, ban assault weapons. Ban them again. Do it now. Enough. Do something. Do something big.”