President Joe Biden has taken a step forward this Tuesday in the regulation of weapons, one of the issues that most polarizes Americans. The president has signed an executive order tightening controls on firearms sales. The initiative aims to make it more difficult for guns and rifles to end up in the hands of people with mental health problems, criminal records or domestic abuse. And also make it easier for police officers and judges to remove weapons from those who represent a potential danger to their community. Biden made the announcement in Monterey Park, an eastern Los Angeles suburb that experienced a shooting last January that left 11 dead and 9 people injured in a dance studio hours before Chinese New Year.
Once again, reality calls Biden to action. “This executive order accelerates and intensifies the effort to save lives more quickly,” the president said at an event at a San Gabriel Valley community club. At the event, the president spent several minutes remembering the victims of the massacre, one of the worst in the state. Present at the ceremony was Brandon Tsay, the 26-year-old who disarmed the same attacker, who intended to carry out another massacre at another Alhambra dance venue, just hours after the one in Monterey Park. Tsay was invited by Biden to the State of the Union address. “In an instant he found the courage to act and fight someone with a high-powered rifle. Brandon saved lives and protected a community,” the president acknowledged.
In his initiative, the president asks the Department of Justice to tighten surveillance so that gun shops carry out the background checks required by federal legislation. “Specifically, the president is asking the attorney general to bring the United States as close as possible to a universal background check without the need for special legislation,” the White House said Tuesday. “It is common sense to check someone for a criminal or domestic abuse record before they are sold a firearm,” Biden said from Los Angeles.
The measure also closes a hole that had been left open by a rule that Biden himself signed last year. The new executive order indicates that anyone who sells at least five firearms in a year to make a profit will be considered part of the industry. This was one of the main claims of the organisms in favor of greater controls. In this way, vendors at gun shows or advertisers for online gun shops may be subject to regulation and required to undergo background checks.
Biden believes that the background check will translate into fewer firearms on the streets. The procedure also helps to reveal the volume of the market in the country. In 2021, 18.5 million background operations were carried out, which gives an idea of the weapons sold then. In 2022 there were 16.4 million, which has led the industry to consider that there is a decrease in demand after the all-time highs caused by the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter mobilizations throughout the country.
The initiative announced by Biden also targets “red flags.” It is a reference to the legislation in force in 19 States, in addition to Washington DC This allows police departments, family members, friends, co-workers, employers and teachers to request before a judge an order that temporarily removes weapons and ammunition from the hands of people that they are a risk to their environment and to themselves. A study from the University of California, one of the States with the strictest arms controls, indicates that these laws mainly favor potential victims of sexist violence. Domestic problems cause the majority of firearms incidents in the United States.
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“These laws are only effective if the public knows when and how to use red flag orders,” says the executive branch. For this reason, Biden has asked the Cabinet to work with police forces, doctors, teachers and community leaders to make the regulations more widely known in the States where they are in force: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the nation’s capital.
The Government also intends to increase its offensive against the gun shops. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Guns, along with the Department of Justice will publish a report of businesses that have been penalized for not obeying federal gun sales requirements. “We must insist that enough is enough and that we will not allow the interests of gun manufacturers to trump the safety of our children and the nation,” Biden says in the text of his executive order.
Last year, Biden signed a law that had the support of Democrats and Republicans. The issue often ideologically divides both political camps, but a series of bloody shootings, including the second largest school shooting and an attack on a supermarket frequented by blacks, gave Washington the air needed to achieve a minimum agreement. The package of laws, the most important legislation passed in three decades, made gun purchases more difficult for those under 21, who must be investigated for three days and must go before law enforcement before they finalize their purchase. The first federal law punishing interstate arms trafficking was also approved. The package also allocated 250 million dollars to be invested in community campaigns focused on the prevention and care of mental illnesses.
Biden himself has admitted that these efforts are insufficient. The head of the Executive has asked the Legislature to approve greater controls and prohibit the sale of high-powered rifles, the weapon preferred by the perpetrators of mass shootings to generate the greatest number of deaths possible. Biden recalled this afternoon that, as a legislator, he was involved in the veto on this type of weapon, which was in force from 1994 to 2004. “The killings were down in those ten years, but our Republican friends let it expire and now the killings have tripled. Let’s finish homework. Let’s ban high-powered rifles again,” the president said. So far in 2023, the country has already registered 110 episodes that have left 8,400 deaths, according to the count carried out by the Archive of Armed Violence. The majority of these deaths, however, are suicides (4,800).
The measure of the Democratic president has been applauded by organizations that fight for greater regulation of the arms market in the United States. “The measures that Biden prioritizes have proven to be effective and are supported by a large majority of Americans and they have a balance between our rights and our commitment to responsibility,” said Peter Ambler, the director of the Giffords organization.
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