Biden Creates Federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention


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President Biden on Friday announced a new office dedicated to gun violence prevention, his latest effort to combat a growing national crisis through executive action instead of the more sweeping reforms that would require congressional approval.

The office will be led by Vice President Kamala Harris, who pursued gun safety measures when she was California’s top prosecutor. Its focus will be on helping the administration coordinate gun policy and pressing congressional leaders to act on the issue.

“We all want our kids to have the freedom to learn how to read and write instead of duck and cover, for God’s sake,” Mr. Biden said during remarks in the Rose Garden, where survivors of school shootings were among the hundreds of attendees.

The announcement comes as Mr. Biden, who is running for re-election, tries to re-energize the record number of young voters who turned out in the 2020 election, many of whom say they are motivated by the horrors of gun violence in America.

“We’ve reached that point today, in my view, where the safety of our kids from gun violence is on the ballot,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden was introduced by Representative Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Democrat of Florida and the first Gen Z member of Congress. He previously was an organizer of the youth advocacy group March for Our Lives, which was started by students who survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla.

“As the youngest member of the United States Congress and the first member of Gen Z, I’m often asked what got me involved in this work,” said Mr. Frost, who was 15 when a gunman killed 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “And the answer is quite simple. I didn’t want to get shot in school.”

The American political system has been deadlocked for more than a decade on major changes to gun laws, despite a steady drumbeat of horrifying shootings. Gun violence has become the leading cause of death among young children.

Even with majorities in both houses of Congress during Mr. Biden’s first two years in office, Democrats were unable to pass an assault weapons ban, and any effort now is almost certain to fail in the Republican-controlled House.

Ms. Harris, who is taking on a higher profile as the presidential campaign gets underway, has been traveling the country to meet young people on college campuses, where she asks students to raise their hands if they have ever participated in an active-shooter drill in elementary or middle school.

“Every time — every time — a sea of hands goes up because in today’s world, on the first day of school, students learn the name of their teacher, yes, they learn the location of their cubby, and they learn how to quietly hide from an active shooter,” Ms. Harris said in the Rose Garden on Friday.

Ms. Harris, who has been tasked throughout her tenure with tackling some of the country’s most intractable domestic problems, said the new office would “use the full power of the federal government” to strengthen advocacy for gun violence prevention.

She then illustrated the urgency of its mission: One in five people have lost a family member to gun violence, about 120 people are killed by a gun every day, and Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to be victims of gun violence and homicides. Latino Americans are twice as likely.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks such incidents, there have been 31,404 gun violence deaths so far this year, already eclipsing the 20,200 recorded in 2022.

“We cannot normalize any of this,” she said. “These are not simply statistics. These are our children, our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers.”

David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland school shooting and one of the founders of March for Our Lives, said the new office was a powerful recognition of the young people who got Mr. Biden elected — and who understood his limitations.

“It’s frustrating — I want more to happen,” said Mr. Hogg, who recently started Leaders We Deserve, a political action committee to back young candidates. “But I also know there’s a complex network of things that are stopping us from making more progress. But President Biden is with us, and that’s the message he’s sending today.”

Dr. Chethan Sathya, the director of the Center for Gun Violence Prevention at Northwell Health, a health care network, said the office would help people see gun violence as a public health issue. As a pediatric surgeon at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, he regularly sees children suffering from gunshot wounds. From 2021 to 2022, the hospital saw a 350 percent increase in the number of kids coming in with gun injuries, he said.

“Unfortunately, as one can imagine, treating kids who come in with bullet wounds — seeing their little bodies torn apart — which happens week after week, it’s really horrific,” he said.

“We treat kids from families who are on both sides of the political spectrum,” he added. “I have yet to meet an American family who does not want zero mass shootings, no gun violence and better firearm safety.”


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