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July 24, 2021

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‘It’s time to start’: Advocates push Biden to act on gun control

Many write letter asking president to prioritize issue

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WASHINGTON — The White House is facing mounting pressure to unveil a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence, an issue that the new administration has not yet publicly tackled despite promises from President Joe Biden to make it a policy priority.

Gun control advocates acknowledge the president’s short tenure in office and the ongoing public health and economic crises, but say Biden must take action soon amid what they see as a worsening crisis of gun deaths in the country.

“I am hopeful this administration is going to get on with prioritizing gun violence, but it’s time to start,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose teenage daughter was murdered by a gunman in 2018, during a mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Guttenberg, who became a gun control advocate after his daughter’s death, said the upcoming anniversary of the Parkland shooting on Feb. 14 should add urgency for the administration to move forward on a broad plan that includes a legislative push and executive orders aimed at restricting access to firearms.

“This would be a really good moment to show Americans we’re going to do everything we can to not have another moment like that,” said Guttenberg, who developed a relationship with Biden after the Parkland tragedy and became a vocal supporter of his campaign.

Guttenberg acknowledged there was some “frustration” within the community of gun control advocates at the lack of attention, even as he remained confident the president would ultimately take action.

The White House is engaged in a broad range of pressing issues, from negotiating a nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill through Congress to reversing many of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. The president, who took office less than three weeks ago, has also attempted to accelerate the distribution of coronavirus vaccines while responding to last month’s violent insurrection at the Capitol.

Democrats who support gun violence prevention measures say that with the party in control of the White House and Congress, they must capitalize on the opportunity to act despite the other challenges.

“This is not going away,” said Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, vice chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in Congress. “I would just say to any elected official that you ignore this issue at your peril. You have to make sure you’re addressing this because the tide turned a long time ago.”

Crow and some gun control activists say they are confident that Biden will soon turn to the issue, citing his successful effort to ban assault weapons as a senator in 1994 and campaign pledges to take a host of actions if elected.

Others in the community, however, are less patient. A collection of more than 300 people personally affected by gun violence, including Guttenberg, wrote a letter to Biden last week asking that he prioritize the issue, saying he must grapple with the rise of gun violence in the same way he has stressed the need to take on climate change and systemic racism.

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