Biden will announce first federal office to prevent gun violence

By | September 20, 2023

President Joe Biden will announce the creation of the first federal Office to Prevent Gun Violence on Friday, fulfilling a key demand from gun safety activists as the legislation remains stalled in Congress, according to two people with direct knowledge of the White House’s plans.

Stefanie Feldman, a longtime Biden aide who previously worked at the Domestic Policy Council, will play a leading role, the people said.

Greg Jackson, executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, and Rob Wilcox, senior director for federal government affairs at Everytown for Gun Safety, are expected to fill key roles in the office along with Feldman, who has worked on gun policy for more than a decade and continues to oversee the White House policy portfolio. The creation of the office was first reported by the Washington Post.

Since Biden’s election, armed groups have called on him to take this action, which activists see as a concrete step beyond his unanswered calls for an assault weapons ban and universal background checks. Activists have argued that such an office will help the administration coordinate on gun policy issues across the federal government, while allowing the president and Vice President Kamala Harris to show leadership on the issue.

“I really think this is a testament to the survivors and the affected communities who have been pushing the administration for years to do this,” said one of the people with direct knowledge of the plans, who asked to remain anonymous to discuss details before the announcement.

The White House, Everytown and Community Justice Action Fund did not respond to a request for comment.

Since taking office, the president has taken a series of executive actions and his administration has invested in community-based anti-violence interventions. And following back-to-back shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, in 2022, the White House worked with a bipartisan coalition in Congress to pass the first gun legislation in nearly three decades. The agreement, signed by Biden in June 2022, strengthened background checks on young gun buyers, helped states implement “red flag” laws and prevented more access to firearms of perpetrators of domestic violence crimes. The following month, the Senate confirmed the first director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms since 2013.

However, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 504 mass shootings in 2023 alone in which four or more people were injured or killed.

Gun safety groups have pushed Biden to focus on implementing gun legislation and argued that such an office would help with coordination among federal agencies.

“A White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention would build on President Biden and Vice President Harris’ already impressive track record on gun safety,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords. “This has been a top priority of ours for years, and it would provide an important center of gravity for leadership across the Administration as the President and Vice President implement the historic Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and continue to push Congress to pass legislation to save human lives. The hiring of Greg and Rob would demonstrate how seriously this administration takes its responsibility to address this crisis.”

The timing of Biden’s announcement comes as his presidential re-election campaign accelerates. The new office will give the president an opportunity to highlight his action on gun safety at a time when Congress is unlikely to pass further legislation, potentially boosting enthusiasm among key voting blocs, including young people.

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