President Joe Biden announced Friday the creation of the first-ever Office of Gun Violence Prevention at the White House to help reduce the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.
Speaking from the Rose Garden, the president said he took the action “to send a clear message about how important this issue is to me and to the country.”
“After every mass shooting, we hear a simple message – the same message across the country. I’ve been to every mass shooting: ‘Do something, please do something,'” said Biden.
“Do something to prevent tragedies that leave behind survivors who will always carry physical and emotional scars; families will never be quite the same; communities overwhelmed by grief and trauma. Do something! Do something something,” the president continued.
Although the announcement did not include a new policy initiative, Biden said the new White House office would “centralize, accelerate and intensify” the administration’s efforts to combat gun violence.
“He believes now is the time to accelerate our work to reduce gun violence, which is why he created this office,” Stefanie Feldman, who will serve as director of the Office of Violence Prevention, told reporters army.
Since taking office, the Biden administration has sought to take action on guns through executive actions, most notably, the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which strengthened background checks for gun buyers under 21 and increased so-called “red flag” funding. “laws, among other actions.
“There is a big difference between doing the bare minimum and doing everything in your power to ensure that the executive actions already announced by the President and the bipartisan Safer Communities Act are implemented across the board. possible, and the president wants to make sure that we have staff available to really excel,” a senior administration official said.
But the administration has failed to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — a Biden campaign pledge for 2020. As the 2024 election approaches, Biden has again called Congress to act and urged voters to act if they fail to do so.
“If members of Congress refuse to act, then we will have to elect new members of Congress who will act, Democrats or Republicans. Listen, friends, there comes a time when our voices are so loud, our resolve is so clear that ” We have reached this point today, in my opinion, where the safety of our children from gun violence is at stake,” the president said Friday.
Vice President Kamala Harris will add oversight of the office to her portfolio and also spoke during the announcement.
“With this new office, we will use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates, students, teachers and elected leaders, to save lives and fight for the right of all to be safe. freedom from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right,” Harris said.
Among the audience at the event were members of Congress, state and local officials, survivors and their family members, and gun violence prevention advocates.
“Our losses may have been due to different circumstances, but I know events like this are really hard to witness. You want to be here to promote change, but it brings back all the memories as if it happened there a day ago,” Biden told the audience. , drawing on his own experiences of loss.
Rep. Maxwell Frost, a Florida Democrat, first Gen Z and youngest member of Congress, introduced the president and said the reason he got involved in politics was “pretty simple: I didn’t want to get involved shoot at school.”
Feldman has worked extensively on gun violence issues in the past and, importantly, according to one source, he has the president’s ear.
The Washington Post first reported that Greg Jackson, a gun violence survivor who heads the Community Justice Action Fund, and Rob Wilcox of Everytown for Gun Safety, are expected to play “key roles” in the newly formed office.
The United States has seen more than 500 mass shootings so far in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. A mass shooting is defined as four or more people shot at the same time.
Activist groups including March For Our Lives and Newtown Action Alliance have advocated for a gun violence prevention office for years, saying in an open letter to Biden in 2021 that creating an office would “streamline efforts government to reduce violence. “
Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, and Frost also introduced legislation last year to create this type of office and liaison at the White House. Murphy said in a statement Wednesday that the move would save thousands of lives.
“Congressman Frost and I introduced legislation earlier this year to create this office, and while we will continue to push to codify the need for this office, the President’s decision to create it without legislation is a big step forward,” Murphy said.
A source ABC News spoke with called the creation of the office a big victory for the gun violence prevention movement.
As Republicans have taken back the House, the likelihood of congressional action on gun safety issues has diminished. Biden has worked across the aisle to pass gun safety reforms in the wake of the 2022 Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, but gun safety advocates Guns continued to advocate for additional measures, such as a ban on assault weapons, but also limits on magazine ammunition. capacity, universal background checks and secure storage laws.
Peter Ambler, Giffords’ executive director, told ABC News in a statement: “This has been a top priority of ours for years, and it would provide an important center of gravity for leadership within the administration as the President and the Vice President are implementing historic bipartisan Safer Communities legislation and continuing to push Congress to pass legislation to save lives.