DemDaily: White House Wages War on Gun Violence

September 25, 2023

President Biden last Friday announced the formation of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, the first of its kind, to address the nation's gun violence epidemic.

The new office will be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris, a former state attorney general and prosecutor, who has been at the forefront of the administration's efforts to stem the rise in violence.

The United States boasts a gun-related murder rate 26 times greater than that of other high-income nations, and a firearms suicide rate eight times higher than any other country's. More than 500 people have been killed in mass shootings so far in 2023, the most from January through August in at least ten years.

Firearms are now the number one cause of death among children in the US. In 2022 gun-related incidents resulted in the deaths of 314, and injury of 681, children ages 0 to 11. Among teens aged 12 to 17, guns accounted for 1,366 deaths and the injury of 3,806.

The Office of Gun Violence Prevention will be headed by Stefanie Feldman, a longtime policy advisor to the President, alongside leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox, who will serve as Deputy Directors.

Biden has taken more executive action to combat the crisis of gun violence in America than any President in history, issuing over two dozen executive orders -- from keeping dangerous weapons out of criminal hands and repeat shooters off our streets, to holding rogue firearms dealers and traffickers accountable and increasing resources to law enforcement and communities.

In June 2022, Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in nearly 30 years.

The Act provides funding incentives for states to pass red-flag laws, strengthens background checks for 18-21 year-olds and closes the "boyfriend loophole" by expanding the prohibition of gun ownership from convicted domestic abusers to dating partners rather than just spouses and former spouses.

It also institutes "straw purchasing" penalties, clarifies the legal definition of a firearms dealer, and funds school safety measures, mental health programs and telehealth services.

In July 2022, Biden announced the Safer America Plan, which would invest $37 million in gun violence prevention efforts, including supporting law enforcement and community safety programs.

Announcing the new White House gun safety office last week, however, he said, "While these are important steps, they are just the first steps toward what is needed."

Biden has pushed the limits of his presidential powers to counter inaction by Congress, which has the sole ability to pass more critical measures such as universal background checks, an increase to the minimum age to buy guns, and a ban on assault weapons.

Although President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban into law in 1994, it expired in 2004 and subsequent legislation to restore the ban has yet to successfully reach another president's desk.

Approximately 327 people are shot every day in the US, resulting in an average of 117 deaths. Over half of those are suicides.

A June 5-11, 2023 Pew Research poll found six in 10 Americans favor stricter gun laws, with the strongest support coming from minorities, women and young adults age 18-29 -- key constituencies for Biden and Harris next November.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Gun Violence Archive, Forbes, AP, CNN, White House, BradyUnited, Pew Research

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