Vice President Kamala Harris, who has played a leading role in gun safety policy, will lead the first-ever White House office of gun violence prevention, a key step gun safety advocates have demanded for years.
President Joe Biden will formally announce the new office Friday during a Rose Garden event where several advocates and lawmakers have been invited to attend.
Longtime Biden aide Stefanie Feldman, who has worked on gun policy for more than a decade, will serve as its director, according to a White House statement.
â€œEvery person and every child deserves the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and live up to their God-given potential. Every family, in every community, should have the freedom to live and to thrive. We know true freedom is not possible if people are not safe,â€ Harris stated.
â€œThis epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day,â€ the Indian American leader said.
â€œThe new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Bidenâ€™s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law, while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives,â€ she said.
â€œOur 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,â€ Harris added.
For years, gun groups have pleaded with Biden to take this action, which advocates see as a concrete step forward as gun safety legislation remains stalled in Congress.
Activists have argued that such an office will help the administration coordinate on gun policy issues across the federal government, while also allowing the White House to show leadership on the issue.
Americans increasingly say that gun violence is a major problem, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2023.
Six-in-ten US adults say gun violence is a very big problem in the country today, up 9 percentage points from spring 2022. In the survey conducted this June, 23% say gun violence is a moderately big problem, and about two-in-ten say it is either a small problem (13%) or not a problem at all (4%).
Looking ahead, 62% of Americans say they expect the level of gun violence to increase over the next five years. This is double the share who expect it to stay the same (31%). Just 7% expect the level of gun violence to decrease.
â€œEvery time Iâ€™ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and Iâ€™ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: â€˜do something,â€™â€ Biden stated.
â€œItâ€™s why, last year, I signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to keep guns out of dangerous hands, and have taken more executive action than any President in history to keep communities safe. But as Iâ€™ve said before â€” while these are important steps, they are just the first steps toward what is needed.â€
â€œThe Office of Gun Violence Prevention builds on historic actions taken by President Biden to end gun violence in our country: including signing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant legislative action in nearly 30 years aimed at doing so, and taking more meaningful executive action than any other president to make our schools, churches, grocery stores, and communities safer,â€ the White House stated.
The Biden-Harris Administration has worked to implement the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun violence prevention legislation in nearly 30 years, it said.
This legislation is already saving lives by keeping guns out of the hands of individuals under 21 who are prohibited from purchasing firearms, empowering the Justice Department with new authorities to prosecute firearms traffickers, improving access to mental health services in our schools to help young people deal with the trauma and grief resulting from gun violence, and investing in community violence interventions, according to the White House.
The Biden-Harris Administration, it said, has announced dozens of executive actions to: keep especially dangerous weapons and repeat shooters off our streets; hold rogue gun dealers and gun traffickers accountable; provide law enforcement with the tools and resources they need to reduce gun violence; and address the root causes of gun violence.
Most recently, the Justice Departmentâ€™s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives â€“ a critical leader in work to reduce gun violence â€“ proposed a rule to reduce the number of guns sold without background checks and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the White House noted.
Biden, the White House stated, continues to call on Congress to take additional action, including by:
Banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines;
Requiring safe storage of firearms;
Requiring background checks for all gun sales;
Eliminating gun manufacturersâ€™ immunity from liability; and
Enacting his Safer America Plan, which would put more police officers on our streets for accountable, community policing and invest in gun violence prevention and intervention.