At a Rose Garden event tomorrow, President Biden will announce the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which will be led by Vice President Kamala Harris. The office will serve to expedite the implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the President’s previous executive actions.
The office will help coordinate federal funding for community violence interventions and craft grant programs and policies. There is an intense need for mental health support and the White House thinks there’s promise in having in a coordinated effort at the White House to help deploy those mental health services.
This new office announcement comes as the President and other gun safety advocates have been obstructed by Congress refusing to pass reasonable gun laws even as the nation faces a growing gun violence crisis. The numbers from Pew are staggering, “In 2021, 54% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides (26,328), while 43% were murders (20,958), according to the CDC. The remaining gun deaths that year were accidental (549), involved law enforcement (537) or had undetermined circumstances (458).”
“I’ll continue to urge Congress to take commonsense actions that the majority of Americans support like enacting universal background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But in the absence of that sorely-needed action, the Office of Gun Violence Prevention along with the rest of my Administration will continue to do everything it can to combat the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing our families, our communities, and our country apart,” President Biden said in statement sent to PoliticusUSA.
The President “has spent countless hours out of the public eye morning with families who have lost loved ones to gun violence, whether in Monterey Park, in Buffalo, and Uvalde or in the Oval Office. He hears their message that we need to do more. He also hears young people all around the country demanding a world in which they do not have to live in fear of gun violence. The President hears them he agrees with them, and he is acting,” White House Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary Stefanie Feldman said on a call with reporters on Thursday, in advance of the announcement.
“The Vice President feels the urgency of this issue from every family she’s grieved with, and from students across the country who are fighting for their right to be saved from gun violence. The Vice President has been engaging with college students and when she asked the crowd how many had to participate in shooter drills in elementary school in middle school, hundreds of arms go up,” Deputy Assistant to the President and Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President Kristine Lucius said on the call. “Our young leaders know that we must do more to prevent what is the number one cause of death for American children.”
A senior administration official said priorities early on for the new office will be “turbocharging implementation of the bipartisan and Safer Communities Act and already announced executive actions” as they want to ensure “we’re maximizing the benefits of these of the new law and the new actions” and “Second, being very creative and figuring out within existing authority what additional executive actions we may be able to take.”
Additionally, they plan to use the office to coordinate federal support for communities and individuals impacted by gun violence.
For those wondering if anything will change, the mandate they have from the President is to do more and find additional action they can take to work with states and cities to pass additional gun safety laws and support their community violence intervention as well as offer support after mass shootings, which they say have a long term impact on the mental health and economic well being of communities.
The Office, as an example, will work to convene state leaders in order to move additional state legislation over the finish line. Examples of what this could look like as implemented include working with state legislators and governors to address state laws that are prohibiting states and law enforcement from responding to the enhanced background checks that are in place now.
The Vice President was chosen to lead the office due to her background in state and local government as San Francisco DA and California Attorney General. Harris has met with thousands of students on her college tour and the students are raising gun violence as a top priority at every single stop.
Stefanie Feldman will join the new office as the Director of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, as well as Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox, who will serve as Deputy Directors of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Greg Jackson has led one of the leading community violence prevention advocacy organizations in the country.
This office and new staffers will be funded through the appropriations for the White House every year. The Bipartisan Safer Community Act includes funding to help ensure states are making use of those red-flag laws.
President Biden will continue to push Congress to act and pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, legislation requiring the safe storage of firearms, and background checks for all gun sales.
It’s unclear at this time if any Republicans will attend the event.
“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” Vice President Harris said in a statement shared with reporters on the press call.