President Joe Biden said Friday that creating a White House office dedicated to preventing gun violence would be a tribute to the survivors and activists who have fought for years against fierce opposition for change, predicting that it would would hurt to kick the government's anti-violence efforts into higher gear.
At an event unveiling the new project in the Rose Garden of the White House, Mr. Biden said he was “determined to send a clear message about how important this issue is to me and the country” by issuing an executive order establishing the new project The office — overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris — is intended to coordinate efforts between administration officials and state and local governments without action from Congress.
“We will centralize, accelerate and intensify our work to save more lives, faster. That’s what this new Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the White House is designed for,” he said.
He added that the more than 500 mass shootings the U.S. has seen this year are “unacceptable” and “are not who we are,” and said Americans “must elect new members of Congress when.” Congress does nothing to stop them.” “.
White House Staff Secretary Stefanie Feldman will serve as office director, Greg Jackson, executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, and Rob Wilcox of Everytown for Gun Safety will serve as deputy directors.
Ms. Harris, who spent most of her public service career as a prosecutor in law enforcement before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, thanked Mr. Biden for what she called “his longstanding leadership in the fight to save lives Gun violence” as well as the activists and advocates in the audience “who raised their voices [to] Change in demand”.
“We agree that in a civil society, people must be able to shop in a grocery store, walk down the street, or sit peacefully in a classroom and be safe from gun violence. Instead, our nation has been torn apart by the tragedy and…the fear and trauma…of gun violence,” said Ms. Harris, who added that Black and Latino Americans are disproportionately affected by gun violence.
Citing her experience as a prosecutor trying gun-murder cases, the vice president said she has “grieved with parents who have lost a child” and “comforted children who have been traumatized by the loss of a parent or sibling.”
“We owe it to them and those who live in fear to act immediately. And we don’t have a minute or a life to waste on this issue,” she said, adding that there are “solutions” to solve the problem of gun violence.
“It's a false choice to claim that you don't have to choose between supporting the Second Amendment or passing common-sense gun safety laws,” she said. “In his new office, we will use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates, as well as students, teachers and elected leaders, to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and “to be able to live a life in which they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”
Rep. Maxwell Frost of Florida, a freshman congressman who has worked for years as an anti-violence activist, said Mr. Biden's action will “cement his legacy as one of the fiercest advocates for gun violence prevention.”
“When you love someone, you want them to live free from gun violence. This is true freedom. And President Biden wants equal freedom for every American,” he said.
The opening of the new White House office is a sign that Mr. Biden intends to keep gun violence prevention as a key issue in the upcoming 2024 campaign, and his selection of Ms. Harris to lead it is a sign that she will continue to be one Plays an important role He played an important role in both his time in office and his re-election efforts.
Although Mr. Biden has signed a number of executive actions during his term aimed at strengthening enforcement of existing gun laws, he has repeatedly warned that these efforts have reached the outer limits of his executive authority when it comes to combating gun proliferation . powered weapons and stemming the tide of gun violence.
He has made dozens of unanswered appeals to members of Congress to “do something,” including instituting universal background checks for firearm purchases and reinstating a federal ban on military rifles, which have become the weapon of choice for mass shooters in recent years.
Although Congress has taken no action on a renewed ban on assault weapons or stricter background check requirements, the new White House will be able to capitalize on one of Mr. Biden's key legislative achievements – the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act he last put it into effect year.
Mr. Biden said the “historic law” would “help save lives” and called it “a really important first step” toward a reinstated ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“If you need 80 rounds in a magazine, you shouldn’t own a gun. Because look, the last time we did it, it worked,” he said.
The office will “turbocharge” this law — the first major gun control law passed by Congress in decades — as well as the president’s other executive actions on gun reform. The office's work will determine further actions the White House can take under the president's authority, according to a senior administration official.
Additionally, the office will provide more support to communities affected by gun violence, an effort that a senior administration official likened to the way FEMA is deployed to areas following other disasters.
President Biden has repeatedly suggested in the wake of mass violence that the federal government should do more for communities affected by mass shootings, including addressing the trauma and mental health impacts they cause.
Gun violence remains the leading cause of death among children in the United States. At least 220 children under 11 and more than 1,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 have died from firearms so far this year.
David Hogg, co-founder of March for Our Lives, reacts to the new White House Gun Violence Office
According to the Gun Violence Archive, more than 31,000 Americans died from gun violence in 2023 alone, including more than 17,000 people who died by suicide.
There have been more than 1,800 mass shootings in the United States since the start of the Biden administration.
There have been more than 500 mass shootings this year, including seven in the last week alone, and more than 30 mass killings that have killed at least 171 people in about two decades.
Gun reform advocacy groups have been pushing for years to create an office in the White House focused solely on gun violence prevention. This would be “an important focus” to advance the administration's efforts and push Congress to strengthen legislation, said Peter Ambler, Giffords' executive director The Independent.
David Hogg, a prominent leader in a youth-led movement to combat gun violence, told MSNBC that it was “young people and survivors” who “made this possible.”
After years of pressure on the Biden administration, “the time has finally come,” he said Friday. “Because young people raised their voices and voted, and we have to vote again in 2024. Because if we lose the presidency, if it goes to a Republican, this office will certainly no longer exist.”
Despite urgent calls for reform, Republican officials and gun groups are instead consistently pushing for measures to expand access to firearms. The number of states that allow Americans to carry concealed firearms without a permit — a top priority for gun groups — has increased dramatically in recent years, with more than half of U.S. states passing laws to expand such access in the last decade alone have issued.
About one in 20 adults in the U.S. – about 16 million Americans – owns at least one AR-15 rifle, which has become increasingly popular despite its role in a growing number of deadly mass shootings since a so-called “assault weapons ban” expired in 2004.
The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Protection Act was enacted in 1994, but Congress repeatedly failed to extend the ban after a series of high-powered rifle massacres previously covered by the law.
The president, then a senator from Delaware, played a major role in passing the 1994 law as part of the massive anti-crime package passed by then-President Bill Clinton that year.
A Northwestern University study found that the ban prevented 11 public mass shootings within the decade it was in effect. The study also estimates that keeping the ban in place would have prevented 30 public shootings through 2019, in which 339 people were killed and 1,139 injured.
Last year, the president signed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which clarifies licensing requirements for firearms dealers and tightens background check requirements for gun purchases, including a juvenile record check for anyone age 16 or older who attempts to purchase a firearm.
But the Biden administration's efforts follow a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court's conservative supermajority in 2022 that could potentially legally jeopardize restrictions on firearms.
A decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen states that such restrictions must be rooted in the country's “historic tradition” of gun ownership, which critics have called an absurdly high bar for combating a modern crisis.
President Biden responded to the decision last year, saying it “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution and should deeply concern us all.”