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Biden to spotlight gun control in Monterey Park and meet U.K., Australia leaders in San Diego

A man in a blue suit looks down solemnly, with his eyes closed.
President Biden pauses for a moment of silence during a Dec. 7, 2022, event in Washington with survivors and families affected by gun violence.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
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President Biden will travel to California on Monday for a multiday visit that will include a stop in Monterey Park, the site of one of three mass shootings that rocked the state in January.

Before visiting Monterey Park, Biden will meet Monday in San Diego with Prime Ministers Rishi Sunak of Britain and Anthony Albanese of Australia to highlight the security alliance known as AUKUS. The pact, launched in 2021, aims to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines to better counter China in the Indo-Pacific region. The three leaders are expected to unveil details of U.S. efforts to provide Australia with nuclear propulsion capabilities.

On Tuesday, Biden will stop in Monterey Park, where a gunman shot and killed 11 people at a dance studio during a Lunar New Year celebration on Jan. 21. Biden is expected to highlight his efforts to reduce gun violence, but it’s unclear whether he will meet with the families of the victims or with Brandon Tsay, the 26-year-old who disarmed the gunman at a second dance club.

Tsay met with Biden last month after traveling to Washington for the State of the Union address, during which the president referred to him as a “hero” and called on Congress to ban assault weapons.

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Though he’s made international headlines for his life-saving intervention, Tsay said he planned to use the moment of fame to draw attention to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Tsay’s family has partnered with the Asian Pacific Community Fund, a local nonprofit, to support victims’ families and members of the community.

The president has repeatedly called on Congress to enact stricter gun control measures, including reinstating the assault weapons ban, which he helped pass as a senator in 1994. The 10-year ban, which expired in 2004, prohibited more than a dozen specific firearms and certain features on guns. It also blocked the “manufacture, transfer or possession” of certain semiautomatic firearms designated as assault weapons.

Democrats renewed a push to pass an assault weapons ban when the party controlled both chambers of Congress last year, but the bill failed to gain enough support in the Senate. Such an effort would face stiff resistance in a divided Congress, where Republicans have shown little appetite for further gun restrictions.

In the absence of more far-reaching reform, the president has touted a bipartisan gun safety bill he signed into law in June. The measure, passed in the wake of a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that left 19 students and two teachers dead, strengthened background checks for gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21. It also bolstered an existing law preventing domestic abusers from purchasing guns and funneled federal dollars to help states enact “red flag” laws that allow police to confiscate weapons from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

The law was the first major gun safety bill to pass Congress in three decades. But it falls short of the stricter measures Biden has called for.

With federal reform stalled, some Democrats are seizing on recent mass shootings to tighten gun control at the state level. Michigan Democrats, in control of the state’s Legislature for the first time in more than a decade, have proposed a package of nearly a dozen new gun laws after a mass shooting at Michigan State University last month left three students dead and five others injured.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who served California as a senator and state attorney general, traveled to her home state in the days after the January shootings to meet with victims’ families. She placed flowers at a makeshift memorial outside Star Ballroom Dance Studio and called on Congress to pass “reasonable gun safety laws.”

“Will they do something?” she said of Congress. “That is where we all must speak up and speak to our elected representatives about what we have a right to expect that they will do in the interest of the safety and the security and the well-being of people like those whose lives were ended here.”

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