MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — President Joe Biden on Tuesday visited Monterey Park, a city recovering from a Jan. 21 mass shooting that left 11 dead, and which has become a new front in the administration’s efforts toward curbing gun violence.
Just blocks away from where the gunman’s nighttime rampage began amid the city’s Lunar New Year celebration, Biden touted a resilient, tight-knit immigrant community while unveiling the latest of those efforts at the Boys and Girls Club of the San Gabriel Valley: He announced an executive order aimed at going as far as possible toward universal background checks on gun purchases.
One by one, he described each victim of the shooting, reading off their names along with facts about them. Inside the club’s gym, a hushed crowd of residents, leaders listened.
They embodied the idea that “Our diversity is the strength of this nation,” he said.
“I’m here today with you to act,” Biden said.
The executive order — titled “Reducing Gun Violence and Making Our Communities Safer” — cannot do what Congress can do, but given Congress’ lack of action on such a ban, the administration says Biden’s executive order instructs the attorney general to ensure gun sellers are conducting background checks as required under law and clarify just who can be “engaged in the business” of dealing firearms.
These efforts will ensure fewer guns will be obtained by felons or domestic abusers, senior administration officials said.
Additionally, Biden’s executive order seeks to improve federal support for families, first responders and communities after a mass shooting. Pointing to FEMA responses to natural disasters, senior administration officials said Biden wants to see greater coordination among federal agencies to provide short and long-term aid, such as mental health or financial resources, to communities grappling with mass shootings.
In Monterey Park, the gunman — 72-year-old Huu Can Tran — used a semi-automatic handgun that was purchased in Monterey Park but not registered in California, authorities said. Investigators found hundreds of rounds of ammunition and items authorities believe were being used to make homemade firearm suppressors at the gunman’s home, officials said.
“He should never of had a weapon that was made for war, nor should have the shooters in Half Moon Bay, Buffalo, Uvalde,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, who hails from Monterey Park, referring to the gunman. “This carnage must end and that’s why we must pass a national assault rifle weapons ban.”
Chu also touted the order’s emphasis on multilingual red flag law awareness efforts.
Others acknowledged, that will not be easy.
“Despite the good that the Executive Order will bring, we all know that there will be more work to do,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, D- California. “This includes bringing back universal background checks and banning the sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines.”
Biden’s remarks came in front of a friendly crowd of roughly 200 packed inside the Boys & Girls Club gym, that included leaders and advocates, many hoping for reform in the nation’s gun laws.
Yellow-, white-, and blue-striped walls and basketball hoops lined the perimeter of the gym. Many were dressed in red, with students/mom “demand action” shirts as well purple Brady Campaign shirts, referencing James Brady, the late press secretary for President Ronald Reagan who was shot and severely injured in an assassination attempt on Reagan.
Brady became a gun control advocate, establishing the campaign in his name.
A memorial for the victims hanging right outside the gym showed their dancing silhouettes: “In Heave We Dance,” it read. “In Loving Memory.”
“He is focusing on the most effective tools we have right now, strengthening our background check system so that we can keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and making our ‘red flag laws’ more effective …,” said L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn.
The massacre has shaken the city, known for its diversity, its culinary destinations and peace. While life has gotten back to some semblance of normal, the memory is still fresh and businesses continue to feel the impact of the tragedy as customers haven’t fully come back to the rattled city.
But as it emerges from the shooting, leaders are hopeful that the federal government will help bolster mental health resources and establish anti-violence reforms that reduce the chance of such a tragedy ever happening again.
“If ever the United States of America needed to find a source of strength, it’s found right here in the community of Monterey Park, California,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, D- California.
Biden was also meeting with families and the owner of Star Ballroom Dance Studio, the site of the shooting.
Biden’s executive order echoes his February State of the Union Speech for Congress to renew a ban on assault weapons.
The tragedy — coupled with a mass shooting in Half Moon Bay only two days later that left seven dead — has spurred other action on gun legislation, from the city to the state level.
The Monterey Park City Council itself voted unanimously unanimously this month an array of gun control bills, including an assault weapons ban, at the state and federal levels.
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