President Biden announced the first White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention on Friday, marking a new step in prioritizing the fight against gun violence, and one that advocates have pushed for.
The office, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris, will aim to accelerate efforts to reduce gun violence.
“I'm determined to send a clear message about how important this issue is to me and to the country. It matters,” Biden said. “And here’s why: After every mass shooting, we hear a simple message — the same message heard all over the country, and I’ve been to every mass shooting: Do something. Please do something.”
Specifically, the office created through executive action is expected to focus on implementing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and two dozen other executive actions already taken by Biden, as well as look for additional actions the administration can take and coordinate support for those impacted by gun violence.
“The same way FEMA responds to natural disasters. The same way. And it helps folks recover and rebuild and alter. Look, folks, shootings are the ultimate superstorm, ripping through communities,” Biden said.
The office will also focus on coordinating and expanding partnerships, including with cities and states. “What this means for a place like the city of Chicago, we're taking the full force of government into bringing better, stronger, safer communities into fruition, and reimagining our approach to how safe communities can actually come into fruition is going to be critical,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson.
Biden continued to call for actions to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, implement universal background checks and require safe storage.
“This is doubling the effort of making sure that this tragedy that we're seeing in families and communities stops, this is doubling the effort of saving lives. And so that's how I would see this Prevention Office, it's important, it's going to, again, accelerate the work that this President has done,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
The Rose Garden announcement was made in front of lawmakers, advocates, survivors and family members of those killed by gun violence, many of whom have worked to push for change.
“I think a lot about my best friends who went to the club with me in 2016 and never made it home to say goodbye to their parents, and I wonder what it would look like to make them proud. A day like today feels like we’re making them proud,” said Brandon Wolf, who survived the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
Administration officials said it’s a moment when more White House coordination is valuable, and the President believes more needs to be done.
“It's been a successful strategy that we've been able to use in Florida, as we gathered a point person to be responsible for coordinating multiple efforts. So we're hopeful that this creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention will be able to bring together the multitude of projects that the federal government has going,” said Tony Montalto, whose daughter, Gina, was killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “My daughter Gina was taken from us. Debbi's husband, Chris was also taken. They deserved better than they got. And they are the reason that we are up here and supportive of the Biden administration and their efforts for a comprehensive look at solving gun violence.”
"It always seems like people don't have the sense of urgency. And every day, we're losing people to gun violence. So there is a sense of urgency,” said Debbi Hixon.
Gloria Cazares, Kimberly Rubio and Veronica Mata, the mothers of Jackie, Lexi and Tess, who were killed in the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX, said they want officials to carry their girls' stories with them and make changes in their honor.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Mata.
“I think the majority of Americans are on board with common sense gun legislation. So I think it's going to be applauded,” said Rubio.
“I think we have to be confident just because we've had so many losses, this is a win,” said Cazares.
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