WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is creating the first-ever federal office of gun violence prevention, according to two people familiar with the plans.
The office will coordinate efforts across the federal government and will offer help and guidance to states struggling with increasing gun violence, while taking the lead on implementation of the bipartisan gun legislation signed into law last year. Biden tentatively plans to announce the new effort with an event Friday at the White House, said the people, who had direct knowledge of the plans and who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The office fulfills a key demand of gun safety activists who banded together as a coalition to endorse Biden for president in 2024, and is an effort by the White House to keep the issue front-and-center as the president pushes for a ban on so-called “assault weapons” and urges Congress to act.
“The creation of an Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the White House will mark a turning point in how our federal government responds to an epidemic that plagues every state and every community in America,” said Kris Brown, president of the gun safety group Brady, which has advocated for the office since 2020.
“Tackling this epidemic will take a whole-of-government approach, and this new office would ensure the executive branch is focused and coordinated on proven solutions that will save lives.”
Greg Jackson, the executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, and Everytown for Gun Safety’s Rob Wilcox are expected to hold roles in the newly created office, which White House staff secretary Stef Feldman will oversee, the people said. The White House’s plans were first reported by The Washington Post.
“There are few people who care more about the work of gun violence prevention than President Biden,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has drafted legislation with Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., that would create such an office. “Establishing a White House office dedicated to this fight will save thousands of lives and strengthen the federal government’s implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”
Firearms are the No. 1 killer of children in the U.S., and so far this year 220 children younger than 11 have died by guns and 1,049 between the ages of 12 and 17 have died. As of 2020, the firearm mortality rate in the U.S. for those under age 19 is 5.6 per 100,000. The next comparable is Canada, with 0.08 deaths per 100,000.
But Republican support for gun restrictions is slipping a year after Congress passed the most comprehensive firearms control legislation in decades with bipartisan support, according to a recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Most Democrats, 92%, want gun laws made stronger, in line with their views in a UChicago Harris/AP-NORC poll conducted in July 2022. But Republican desire for more expansive legislation has dropped to 32% from 49% last summer and independents’ support has also declined slightly to 61% from 72%.
Yet despite the political divide, both sides believe it’s important to reduce mass shootings that plague the nation, the poll found. As of Monday, there have been at least 35 mass killings in the U.S. so far in 2023, leaving at least 171 people dead, not including shooters who died, according to a database maintained by the AP and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.
That puts the country on a faster pace for mass killings than in any other year since 2006, according to the database, which defines a mass killing as one in which four or more people are killed, not including the perpetrator, within a 24-hour period.