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Gun violence

Biden to reinforce background checks for gun buyers

Biden to reinforce background checks for gun buyers
Gun reform advocates line Pennsylvania Avenue while attending the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

March 14 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden will announce an executive order on Tuesday that reinforces 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 will also strengthen federal support for red flag laws intended to stop gun sales to people deemed dangerous that have been passed by 19 states and the District of Columbia. It follows previous executive action the Biden administration has taken with the intent to reduce gun violence.

Other aspects of Biden’s order would encourage the safe storage of guns and ask the Federal Trade Commission to analyze how gun manufacturers market firearms, including to minors, a senior administration official told reporters on Monday.

Biden plans to discuss the order on Tuesday, the White House said, when he will meet 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.

In a country with more than 40,000 gun deaths per year, Biden is betting that voters will embrace more proactive gun control. Republican hopefuls who might seek 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 public opinion polls that show a majority of Americans support background checks.

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.

Biden’s order also proposes that the federal government respond to mass shootings in a coordinated fashion, similar to the way Washington reacts to a natural disaster, the senior aide said. Biden has asked his cabinet to develop a federal response that would provide trauma counseling or financial assistance, for example, to a community upended by a mass shooting.

But the heart of the executive order would seek 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.

But 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.

By Daniel Trotta

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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