In order to enforce current laws and collaborate with local governments to approve gun safety legislation at the state level, U.S. President Joe Biden is opening a new office of gun violence prevention at the White House, according to officials on Thursday.
Officials informed reporters on a conference call that the new office will be administered with assistance from gun safety advocates who are joining the administration and will be under the direction of Vice President Kamala Harris.
In a statement issued by the White House, Democratic Vice President Joe Biden stated, “I’ll continue to urge Congress to take common sense actions that the majority of Americans support, like enacting universal background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
The Office of Gun Violence Prevention and the rest of his administration, he added, “will continue to do everything we can to address the scourge of gun violence that is tearing our families, our communities, and our country apart. But in the absence of that sorely-needed action.
On Friday at 2:45 p.m. EDT, Biden and Harris will talk about the decision during remarks in the White House Rose Garden.
Democrats are generally in favor of stronger gun regulations as a strategy to limit the number of gun-related fatalities at schools and in cities around the nation, and Biden’s reelection campaign is likely to heavily emphasize the topic next year.
Republicans largely oppose tighter legislation, with the support of the National Rifle Association, a gun rights organization, citing the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom to bear weapons.
Republicans and Democrats enacted the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act last year, a package of modest gun safety regulations, in a rare display of bipartisanship on the subject. Biden has also taken executive action on the matter.
Anti-violence organizations have long advocated for the creation of a new office of gun violence prevention and were happy with Biden’s record of reform support, but they wanted the White House to go farther.
By giving it to Harris, who has struggled to win over some Democrats in her job as Biden’s No. 2, the vice president also provides her a substantive policy area that is significant and well-liked among their base.
In a statement, Harris said the office will strive to be “engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made.”
Biden’s staff secretary Stefanie Feldman, a White House aide, will lead the agency as its director, while gun control activists Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox will join the administration as her assistants.
Biden is creating this agency because, according to Feldman, “he believes that the time is right to accelerate our work.”
The agency, according to her, would speed up the execution of the bipartisan federal gun control measure that Biden signed last year, “dig deeper” to identify further steps the administration can take, coordinate support for communities affected by gun violence, and broaden collaborations with cities and states.
Gun control advocates praised the decision.
According to Kris Brown, president of the advocacy group Brady, “we are thrilled that the Biden administration has officially created an Office of Gun Violence Prevention.”
She referred to the Federal Emergency Management organization, saying, “Just as FEMA responds to hurricanes and earthquakes, we have desperately needed a federal agency dedicated to responding to this growing public health crisis.”