President Biden is creating a new office for gun violence prevention to coordinate his administration’s efforts to reduce gun violence and elevate an issue that — while stalled in Congress — remains important to Democratic activists and young voters.
Biden will formally make the announcement at the White House on Friday. Vice President Harris will oversee the office, and White House staff secretary Stefanie Feldman will direct its work.
“This office will dig deep to find additional life-saving actions that this administration can take,” Feldman told reporters, explaining that it will aim to coordinate support for communities hurt by gun violence.
Gun-control activists have been privately advocating for such an office for years and it comes as hopes of additional gun reform legislation seem unlikely. Two activists are joining the new White House office: Greg Jackson, a survivor of gun violence who has led the Community Justice Action Fund, and Rob Wilcox, who has worked at the groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Brady.
Activists hope the office will enable Biden to make more use of his presidential bully pulpit to push for more gun safety measures.
“We need a White House team to focus on this issue on a daily basis,” said Po Murray, chair of the Newtown Action Alliance, a grassroots organization started after a 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school killed 20 children and six adults.
“It is a national crisis,” Murray said.
Murray argued that public opinion is on Biden’s side. In a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, a majority of Americans said it’s more important to curb gun violence than protect gun rights.
“I do believe that the president is aware that this is a winning issue for him, and it is the high political ground. And obviously it’s a high moral ground,” she said.
Gun violence is a top-of-mind issue for Gen Z voters
The president has called for “common sense” regulations and a ban on assault-style weapons. Republicans and a small number of Democrats oppose the measures.
Advocates say Biden’s new announcement helps show he is willing to act unilaterally on an issue important to young voters — at a time when he needs to energize this crucial voting bloc ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
During the 2018 midterm elections, addressing gun violence became a major part of the national Democratic campaign playbook. That was the first time gun control groups spent more money than gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.
“There’s been a paradigm shift, I think, in American politics around guns,” said David Hogg, who co-founded March For Our Lives after a mass shooting at his high school in Parkland, Fla., five years ago.
“[Democrats are] no longer running from this issue. They’re running on it and proudly,” he added.
Hogg said Biden needs young voters to win reelection. “That’s not even my opinion. That’s just objectively true. He needs young voters to win again, he especially needs younger voters of color that were critical to his election in 2020,” he told NPR.