President Biden has a rare knack for promising high and delivering low. He usually makes lofty exhortations to ban assault weapons. On 14 March too, Mr Biden let out a passionate war cry in his remarks inside the Boys & Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley: “Let’s finish the job. Ban assault rifles. Do it again. Do something. Do something big.” However, Mr Biden’s new executive order on the same day is nowhere near matching the loftiness of his exhortations. The new order is woefully inadequate. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us- politics/biden-gun-control-executive-order-b2300935.html
A well-meaning Mr Biden issued his new executive order to bolster background checks for guns and their users. Equally well-meaning was the order’s direction for the attorney general to ensure gun dealers are complying with all prevalent laws on background checks. In the same earnest vein, the new executive order attempts to enhance the reporting of assault weapons and ammunition, lost or stolen in transit.
Video Courtesy: YouTube/Associated Press
Goodness is a Political Intention
There are a few more bright spots in the order. The new fiat calls for greater transparency in handling gun dealers and habitual offenders. Plus, the order directs the agencies to work in synergetic coherence with the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network. While these positive aspects of the new executive order reflect Mr Biden’s desire to improve the quality of gun-crime probes and investigations, concerns remain.
Sadly, Mr Biden’s goodness stops at having wishes and intentions. His intentions were honest, when he declared new steps for improving the gun laws in Monterey Park, the site of a mass shootout in California on 21 January 2023. However, since that shootout, as many as 108 Americans have been killed and many more hurt in bigger shootouts in locations ranging from Illinois to Virginia to Colorado to Los Angeles to Texas, to Florida to California. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_ United_States_in_2023
Clinching an Emotional Moment
Projecting himself as a non-complacent president, Mr Biden has been promising, since January 2023, a new harsher-than-before ban on assault weapons, “come hell or high water.” He has been vowing to slap such a ban despite a deeply-divided Congress. Yet, he did nothing until he woke up, a la Rip Van Winkle, on 14 March. However, this is now too little and too late. Americans could see Mr Biden trying in vain to salvage his reputation, in time for the 2024 presidential poll.
Perhaps why Mr Biden clinched the emotional moment at the Asian-American shootout site in Monterey Park, where 12 were gunned down. Right there, he issued his new order, trying to stitch up the chinks in the enforcement of existing gun laws. He sounded angry, showing his fiercest and fieriest side. He exhorted his listeners in a thunderous voice: “Check whether someone is a violent felon, a domestic abuser, before they buy a gun.” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64939930
Scorched by Disagreement
Sounding desperate, Mr Biden was trying to convince Americans of his desire to eliminate another mass shootout. Soon, he will be disappointed. With reasons. One, he is sure to be hobbled by too many constraints. The Second Amendment is one such constraint. Two, the divisive political system he is part of, will make it hard for him to usher in universal background checks for gun sales and slap bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/03/14/politics/biden-gun- violence-speech-monterey-park/index.html
Three, the powerful lobby of gunmakers is certain to fight hard against the contemplated repeal of their immunity from liability. Yet, in Monterey Park, Mr Biden was crowing his vow to ban assault weapons. He even took pains to draw listeners’ attention to his earnest 1993 attempt to get the ban passed through the Senate. He lamented how his sincere efforts had hit a wall, only to succumb to serious divisions and scorching political disagreement a decade later. https://poliphoon.com/the-divided-states-of- america/
Gun Control Protagonists Enthused
Mr Biden’s anguish was palpable. He directed his anger towards the Congress for shirking its responsibility to act decisively on the issue of beefing up the gun laws in general and bolstering the background checks on gun-users in particular. Sure, the president was livid and worried. Many of those who saw him speaking in Monterey Park that day were confused. Was Mr Biden pouring his pains out or was he putting up an act?
The reactions were mixed. Protagonists of stiff gun control laws, many of them, hailed Mr Biden for his new executive order. John Feinblatt, a gun-safety activist, was among them. He was sure Mr Biden’s order would deliver the desired results. An enthused Feinblatt said: “The order will significantly expand background checks on gun sales, keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people and save lives.” Monterey Park mayor joined him in chorus. https://abc7chicago.com/president-joe-biden-executive- order-gun-control-buy-guns/12951910/
Mr Biden has his Re-election in Mind
However, dissenting voices were equally loud. Disgruntled dissenters emphasised on how the new executive order was inherently incapable of ending the endless cycle of gun violence in America. Undaunted, Mr Biden expressed his keenness to urge the Congress to act in right earnest. “In the meantime, my administration will continue to do all that we can, within existing authority, to make our communities safer,” Mr Biden said in the order’s preamble. https://nypost.com/2023/03/14/biden-to-beef-up- background-checks-on-gun-sales/
Mr Biden’s words and their timing prove he has re-election on his mind. Analysts expect his chosen words to play a pivotal role in his poll campaign, where gun violence will be the central issue. As more Americans feel Mr Biden has not done enough to stop gun violence, he may be viewing his Monterey Park address, besides his new executive order, as the only magical wands capable of snatching victory from thin air of non-performance and non-delivery.
Victims Haven’t Had Much Support
Set aside Mr Biden’s re-election campaign for a moment. The usually divisive America is not so divided on the need for checks before a firearm purchase. Opinion polls reveal many Democrats and Republicans back the checks. However, president Biden is a Democrat, while the Republicans are in control of the House. The hopes of decisively reforming the gun laws are thus receding. This is deeply worrying, particularly when America has witnessed more than 100 deaths in mass shootouts this year. https://poliphoon.com/who-is-spilling-the- american-blood/
Protagonists of the new order may argue many states offer compensation to victims of shootouts. They may stress that the department of justice offers funds to affected states through anti-terrorism and emergency assistance programs. They may try to convince the House the order’s intention to aid victims directly, without depending solely on communities and their residents. Yet, victims haven’t had much support on the ground so far. https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/coping-in-the- aftermath-of-a-shooting#
Americans Need to be Educated
This is why an executive order alone is not enough. The order needs to be supplemented by efforts from all concerned agencies to aid the victims. Plus, the order should have had provisions to hold the gun industry accountable too. Without naming and shaming the licensed firearm dealers, who wilfully violate the gun laws, the order will not have the desired effect. Plus, the executive order should have made efforts to educate Americans on gun usage and laws.
Americans need to be educated on ‘red-flag protection laws’ and the 19 states where they are in force. The new executive order fails on this score. Educating so would have enabled Americans to petition a court to allow confiscation of firearms. Woeful, Mr Biden’s officials are not equipped enough to put up a spirited resistance against local law-enforcers who would not risk infringing on Americans’ right to own, carry and use firearms. https://ojjdp.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh176/files/pubs/gun_ violence/sect07.html
Unreined Violence Disgraceful
Mr Biden may still win the debate here. He may point fingers at the 2,000 counties in 40 states that have declared themselves as ‘second amendment sanctuaries’. These counties allow their officials to abstain from enforcing gun restrictions. The president may argue that, despite the ‘sanctuaries’, his actions are widely supported. One thing is clear here, however. Mr Biden’s new order, despite its limitations, is plain common sense. https://www.bradyunited.org/act/second-amendment- sanctuaries
Common sense because no American, in his right sense, would oppose the need for safety, his and his family’s. Viewed any which way, gun violence has escalated to epidemic proportions in America. This is undeniable. As Mr Biden said earlier, unreined gun violence in America continues to be a disgraceful source of international embarrassment. This is why Americans expect their president to do everything he can to stop the stinking rot.
The tragedy is, despite his new executive order, Mr Biden is far from finishing his job. He has failed to address issues that go beyond the acts of gun violence. He has paid scant attention to the need for creating a co-ordinated government mechanism to meet the needs of gun-violence victims. Post-violence mental healthcare for traumatised victims and financial assistance for families deprived of breadwinners are at the top of their lists of needs. When president Biden’s new executive order comes so late, that too in a skimpy package, gun violence hits America hardest.