WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden is creating a White House office dedicated to gun violence prevention, according to people familiar with the matter, amid calls from activists to do more to address the issue in lieu of congressional action.
Mr Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris are expected to announce the establishment of the new office at a White House ceremony, the people said.
Both leaders have visited sites of recent shootings to meet with victims and families, and have urged Congress to ban assault weapons, institute universal background checks for gun purchases and take other steps to strengthen federal firearms laws.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Lawmakers last year – when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress – passed the first major gun-safety legislation in three decades. Yet further action is highly unlikely, given Republicans now control the House.
Earlier this year, Mr Biden issued an executive order seeking to close loopholes that allow some purchasers to avoid background checks when buying firearms online or at gun shows.
Still, mass shootings have persisted at an undiminished pace. So far in 2023, there have been more than 500 such shootings in the US as of Tuesday, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Ms Kris Brown, president of Brady, one of the oldest gun-violence prevention groups, stressed in a statement that “executive action alone isn’t enough to end gun violence,” and urged Congress “to pass common-sense gun laws.”
Ms Natalie Fall, the executive director of March for Our Lives, a group that was formed by students following a 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, said that “if our children and young people really are precious to us, then we need to be throwing everything at the gun violence epidemic.”
Ms Fall pointed out that the group sent a letter to the White House just last week requesting an office dedicated to preventing gun violence.
Mr Peter Ambler, executive director of gun-control group Giffords, also said that such an office “has been a top priority of ours for years.”
Mr Jack Lobel, press secretary for Voters of Tomorrow, a Gen-Z political engagement group, applauded the development, saying coupled with an announcement to create a climate-focused training programme, it left the organisation “speechless.”
“Really nearly everything that the administration is doing right now, in terms of domestic policy, is done with young people in mind,” Mr Lobel said. BLOOMBERG