Joe Biden to unveil executive order to crackdown on law breaking gun sellers | Joe Biden

Joe Biden will announce on Tuesday that he is ordering the attorney general, Merrick Garland, to crack down on gun sellers who break the law, “moving the US as close to universal background checks as possible”, the White House said.

The president will speak in Monterey Park, California, meeting victims’ families and community members devastated by a mass shooting that claimed 11 lives and injured nine other people in January.

Opinion polls show that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans support universal background checks that would reveal whether a person is a convicted criminal or domestic abuser before allowing them to buy a gun. But with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, there is little hope of Congress heeding Biden’s pleas to pass legislation.

On a swing through California, the president will acknowledge this political reality and unveil an executive order to enforce existing laws against gun sellers who, knowingly or otherwise, currently fail to run the background checks they should.

On a conference call with reporters, a senior administration official said last year’s bipartisan gun safety legislation – the most sweeping of its kind in three decades – “created an opening” for Biden to direct the attorney general to move the US as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation.

He will ask Garland to clarify the statutory definition of who is “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms, the official said. “Number one, to make it clear that those who are wilfully violating the law need to come into compliance with the law and, number two, to make it clear to people who may not realise that, under that statutory definition they are indeed in the business of selling firearms, they must become federally licensed firearm dealers and they must run background checks before gun sales.”

The administration argues that this will mean fewer guns sold without background checks and therefore fewer guns ending up in the hands of criminals and domestic abusers. Garland will also devise a plan to stop gun dealers whose licenses have been revoked or surrendered from continuing to trade.

There will be an effort to hold the gun industry accountable by naming and shaming federally licensed firearms dealers who are violating the law. Garland will release Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives records from the inspection of firearms dealers cited for breaking laws.

The executive order also aims to boost public awareness of “red-flag” laws that allow individuals to petition a court to allow police to confiscate weapons from a person adjudged dangerous to themselves or others.

These extreme risk protection orders have been enacted in 19 states and the District of Columbia but, the White House noted, are only effective if the public knows when and how to use them. Biden’s cabinet will be asked to work with law enforcement officials, healthcare providers, educators and other community leaders to ensure their effective use and to promote the safe storage of guns.

The senior administration official insisted that, whatever the likely resistance from Republicans and certain localities, the president’s actions enjoy broad support. “These are not controversial solutions anywhere except for in Washington DC in Congress. The actions the president is proposing to move closer to universal background checks are just common sense.

“Similarly, safe storage, extreme protection orders, these are things that have the support of the vast majority of Americans. The vast majority of Americans are looking for a leader in Washington who will take charge and make their community safer and that is exactly what the president is doing here.”

Biden, who has previously called gun violence in America “an epidemic” and “international embarrassment”, will further order efforts to counter a sharp rise in the loss or theft of firearms during shipping, enlist the Pentagon in improving public safety practices and encourage the Federal Trade Commission to issue a report analysing how gun makers market firearms to children, including through the use of military imagery.

In addition, he will seek to improve federal support for gun violence survivors, victims and survivors’ families. The White House pointed out in a press release that, when a hurricane overwhelms a community, the Federal Emergency Management Agency steps in.

But when a mass shooting does so, “no coordinated US government mechanism exists to meet short- and long-term needs, such as mental health care for grief and trauma, financial assistance (for example, when a family loses the sole breadwinner or when a small business is shut down due to a lengthy shooting investigation), and food (for example, when the Buffalo shooting closed down the only grocery store in the neighborhood)”.

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