By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Tuesday that reinforced background checks for gun buyers in what the White House is promoting as the most comprehensive policy the president can enact without Congress.
The order also aims to strengthen federal support for red flag laws passed in 19 states and the District of Columbia that intend to stop gun sales to people legally deemed dangerous to themselves or others.
Biden’s order also encouraged safe storage of guns and asked the Federal Trade Commission to analyze how gun manufacturers market firearms, including to minors. It follows previous executive action taken by the administration seeking to reduce gun violence.
The White House, which released the order, said Biden planned to discuss it on Tuesday with gun violence victims in Monterey Park, California, where a shooter opened fire in a dance hall on Jan. 21, killing 11 people and injuring nine others.
With more than 40,000 U.S. gun deaths per year, Biden is betting voters in the 2024 presidential election will embrace more proactive gun control. Republicans seeking their party’s nomination to challenge the Democrat Biden in 2024 are certain to favor more expansive gun rights, backed by influential groups such as the National Rifle Association.
The Biden administration is pointing to poll results showing most Americans support background checks.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last year found 84% of respondents supported background checks for all firearms sales and 70% backed red flag laws. That survey was taken immediately after a gunman opened fired at a school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 students and two teachers.
Some gun rights advocates oppose background checks, saying they infringe on constitutional rights to possess arms while failing to stop criminals from getting them. They also contend many red flag laws trample on due process rights.
The firearms trade industry group NSSF said in a statement it opposed the executive order because it threatened constitutional rights and was “simply rehashing existing law.”
“The Biden administration should demand that soft-on-crime prosecutors and lawmakers use the laws already in existence to lock up criminals that misuse firearms to prey on innocent Americans,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF senior vice president.
But New York Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat who campaigned with a tough-on-crime message, praised what he called “concrete action to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”
“President Biden is bolstering our work to keep New Yorkers safe,” Adams said in a statement.
The heart of the executive order seeks to expand background checks intended to prevent felons or domestic abusers from buying guns, largely by leaning on federally licensed gun dealers to comply or educating others who may not realize they are required to run background checks under existing law, the White House said.
The president last year signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun control legislation in 30 years.
Since then, the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives, ending virtually any chance of more gun legislation for the next two years, such as Biden’s proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; additional reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and David Gregorio)