President Joe Biden came to Southern California on Tuesday to visit with members of the Monterey Park community where a horrific mass shooting took place in January. As he prepares his expected campaign for re-election, the president showcased his opposition to gun violence.
Everybody’s opposed to gun violence, and no one supports mass shootings.
But not everybody agrees that the answer is passing more laws, especially the type of laws that only affect law-abiding gun retailers and ordinary Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.
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The president favors more laws, but laws have to go through Congress, so Biden used his appearance in Monterey Park to announce an executive order that he said would ensure that a law he signed last summer, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, is implemented more effectively.
In his executive order, Biden directed his Cabinet to “encourage effective use” of “extreme risk protection orders,” also known as “red flag” laws. He ordered the Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Surgeon General, Secretary of Education and Secretary of Homeland Security to “partner with” law enforcement, health care providers, educators and community leaders in this effort. The good intentions here could easily go awry. It may not be a good idea to have the entire federal government aggressively seeking information on whose guns should be confiscated.
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Another part of the executive order seeks to “increase compliance with the Federal background check requirements for firearm sales” through more “rulemaking” that applies to federal firearms licensees. In practice, this will put more legal and compliance requirements on gun retailers. Will it prevent mass shootings? That’s less clear.
The executive order also directs the heads of federal law enforcement agencies to “ensure the prompt entry of ballistics data recovered in connection with criminal investigations” into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, a policy that Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, called “science fiction.” The idea, Massie said, is to have a “ballistics database” that stores “a fingerprint of a gun using the shell casing or the bullet.” The congressman said New York and Maryland tried the program at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, “and after 15 years, never solved a single crime.”
In addition to his executive order, Biden also called on Congress to pass new laws, including a renewal of expired federal legislation that bans so-called assault weapons. However, the Supreme Court has said there is an individual right to keep and bear arms, and the government does not have unlimited license to decide which arms may be owned.
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According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there were an estimated 16.4 million gun sales in 2022. There were even more in the two previous years — 18.5 million sold in 2021 and 21 million sold in 2020. The FBI ran 16.4 firearm-related background checks through the national Instant Criminal Background Check System in 2022, the NSSF reported, based on an industry analysis.
The Monterey Park shooter was disarmed by the courageous actions of San Marino resident Brandon Tsay, who was not armed. But Americans have the right to protect themselves through the lawful use of firearms, and clearly many Americans have chosen to be gun owners.
It’s always notable that politicians who visit communities victimized by gun violence bring armed security agents with them. They shouldn’t needlessly harass others who seek the same protection.