Connecting state and local government leaders
The office will look to build off of last year’s landmark gun legislation and has been applauded by national local government associations who have called gun violence an “incredibly serious issue in America.”
President Joe Biden announced Friday a new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention that not only seeks to fulfill the promises made under the landmark gun legislation passed last year, but also looks to build on it.
The new office will expedite the implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which calls for strengthening background check requirements, investing in mental health systems and expanding red flag laws, among other efforts. It will work to help communities curb gun violence by assisting state and local leaders in passing gun safety laws and improving resources for survivors, Biden said at a press conference Friday.
The Office of Gun Violence Prevention will also help implement other executive actions that crack down on gun trafficking and provide resources to public safety agencies. And it will coordinate support for victims and families in the wake of tragedies, “the same way FEMA responds to natural disasters,” Biden said.
During the press conference, Biden recalled visiting Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and meeting with families and officers in the wake of a mass shooting that left 26 people, mostly children, dead. He recounted meeting with Connecticut State Police officers who told the then-vice-president of their need for mental health services.
“Anyone who doesn’t think that these kinds of engagements have a permanent effect on young children—and, in many cases, alter their entire lives even if they’ve never had a bullet touch them—misunderstands,” he said. “These were hard and tough cops asking me, could I get them psychiatric help.”
The National League of Cities lauded the announcement in a statement, noting that “[l]ocal elected officials play a vital role in addressing gun violence, as they are on the front lines alongside impacted communities.”
There have been more than 500 mass shootings so far, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection group that tracks gun deaths..
“Gun violence is an incredibly serious issue in all American cities and addressing it requires collaboration and a comprehensive approach,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, co-chair of the league’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force. “America’s cities commend this leadership and stand ready to work together with our federal partners.”
The National League of Cities urged the Biden administration to collaborate with local leaders, especially those doing on-the-ground work in violence prevention and neighborhood safety. Cooperation will be key in reducing gun violence, the organization said, encouraging the federal government to include the voices of survivors, legal experts and health care providers.
The league added that gun violence disproportionately harms people of color and minority populations, and encouraged the Biden administration to ensure national policies are shaped with an equity framework.
The announcement was also applauded by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
“Stopping the gun violence that continues to shatter lives in American cities requires a whole-of-government approach, and we are eager to begin working with this new office,” said Hillary Schieve, mayor of Reno, Nevada, and president of the conference, in a statement.
Friday’s announcement came two weeks after more than 60 congressional Democrats wrote a letter urging the Biden administration to take immediate action to address gun violence, including revisiting which firearms can be imported for “sporting purposes” and working with private firearm vendors to develop guidelines around the kinds of weapons that can be sold to civilians.
“The epidemic of gun violence demands that you use the full power of the executive branch,” lawmakers wrote.