Biden to create new office of gun violence prevention
President Biden on Friday will announce the creation of a new office for gun violence prevention, an escalation of the administration’s efforts to tackle the issue amid stalled progress in Congress, according to four people briefed on the action who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans that were not yet public.
Biden and Vice President Harris are scheduled to announce the new office at an event in the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, the people said.
Greg Jackson, a gun violence survivor who is the executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, and Rob Wilcox, the senior director for federal government affairs at Everytown for Gun Safety, are expected to have key roles in the office, the people said.
The new office will report up through Stefanie Feldman, the White House staff secretary and a longtime Biden policy aide who has worked on the firearms issue for years, the people said. Feldman previously worked on the Domestic Policy Council and still oversees the gun policy portfolio at the White House.
The White House, the Community Justice Action Fund and Everytown for Gun Safety all declined to comment.
Since Biden was elected, gun violence prevention groups have pressed the White House to create such an office, arguing that it would help coordinate efforts across the federal government to reduce gun violence. Activists say this type of office would also allow the White House to exert more leadership on the issue.
“If this announcement is, in fact, the creation of a single point of leadership on gun violence in the administration, it’s a very big deal for the movement,” Shannon Watts, the founder emerita of Moms Demand Action, a group working to stop gun violence, said in a statement after The Washington Post approached her with the news.
“For years, we’ve advocated for a centralized team responsible for coordinating federal and state resources and mobilizing movement partners,” she added. “A governmental focal point dedicated to creating a framework for overseeing national policy, research and resources would be more than symbolic — it would be a significant turning point for the movement.”
Zeenat Yahya, director of policy at March for Our Lives, a student-led organization founded after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., said such an office would improve coordination between government agencies that have roles in combating gun violence.
“We know this is not the end-all, be-all solution, but it’s really important to us that someone has the ear of the president,” Yahya said.
So far in 2023, there have been 504 mass shootings in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are killed or injured.
The new office comes as Biden’s reelection campaign ramps up and amid frustration from many activists that the president has been unable to break through Congress’s resistance to additional gun-control laws.
Biden has long advocated for stricter firearms measures. He played a key role in passing the 1994 assault weapons ban, and he became President Barack Obama’s point person on guns after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
As a candidate, Biden promised to take action, citing the assault weapons ban, a 10-year measure that expired in 2004, as evidence of his ability to overcome the National Rifle Association’s opposition.
In June 2022, Biden called on Congress to act in a rare, prime-time address after attacks at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., and at a supermarket in Buffalo.
Later that month, Congress, for the first time in nearly 30 years, passed major gun legislation, although it was more limited than what Biden had sought. The bipartisan law expanded background checks for some gun buyers, barred a larger group of domestic violence offenders from purchasing firearms, and provided millions of dollars for mental health services and school security initiatives.
“While this bill doesn’t do everything I want, it does include actions I’ve long called for that are going to save lives,” the president said at the time.
Since then, he has repeatedly called for sweeping changes to the country’s gun laws, including banning assault weapons and limiting high-capacity magazines.
Biden has also signed several executive actions aimed at reducing gun violence, including steps to increase the number of background checks for gun sales and to crack down on “ghost guns,” firearms that are assembled at home and harder to track.