President Biden handed gun-control activists another win on Thursday.
The Biden administration formally announced the creation of the first-ever federal office of gun violence prevention. The White House said the office, which will be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris (D.) and led by prominent gun-control advocates, will “focus on implementing executive and legislative action” to “end the scourge of gun violence in America.” Stefanie Feldman, a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun issues, will serve as the office Director. Greg Jackson, the executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, and Rob Wilcox, director of federal government affairs for the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety, will serve under her as the office’s two deputy directors.
“Last year, I signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to keep guns out of dangerous hands, and have taken more executive action than any President in history to keep communities safe. But as I’ve said before – while these are important steps, they are just the first steps toward what is needed,” Biden said in a statement. “Today I’m announcing additional steps forward, with the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, overseen by Vice President Harris, to build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”
The creation of the office is a victory for gun-control activists, further institutionalizing the movement at the highest levels of government. Since Biden first took office, a coalition of the nation’s most prominent gun-control advocacy groups has consistently lobbied the President to create such an office–although some wanted the office to be headed by a cabinet-level appointee instead of being stashed under the Vice President. Until now, Biden resisted calls to form a new office, preferring instead to wield his executive power to enact gun control through the ATF’s rulemaking authority. His decision to reverse course and give gun-control advocates something else on their wishlist may suggest he is running out of room to enact new rules, especially as those rules have faired poorly in federal courts.
In recent years, executive-level agencies dedicated to gun violence have grown more common in progressive cities and states. California, New York, and Colorado have all established state-level gun violence prevention offices since 2021. Those respective agencies primarily serve to collect and publish data on crimes committed with firearms, spread awareness of existing gun-control laws, and fund community violence interruption efforts.
Gun-control advocates celebrated the news of Biden moving to launch the office. They said the office’s centralized nature would help combat violence nationwide.
“We are so pleased that the Biden administration has officially created an Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which will allow a focused and coordinated response to gun violence, which plagues states and communities all over the country,” Kris Brown, President of Brady, said in a press release. “Just as FEMA responds to hurricanes and earthquakes, we have desperately needed a federal agency dedicated to responding to this growing public health crisis.”
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy (D.), one of the leading voices in favor of gun control in Congress, suggested that the office would help “strengthen the federal government’s implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act” in a statement celebrating its creation.
On the other hand, gun-rights supporters condemned the move as an attack on Americans’ rights and an ineffectual strategy for reducing violence.
“While it may sound nice to the uneducated listener, an office like this would only centralize the aggressive efforts by anti-gun administrations to restrict Second Amendment rights, and will do nothing concrete to actually reduce violence,” Aidan Johnston, Director of Federal Affairs for Gun Owners of America, told The Reload. “If this administration were serious about reducing violence, they would support efforts to keep bad guys in jail instead of releasing them, and would also voice their opposition to state and local laws that restrict the rights of individuals to carry weapons for their own self-defense.”
Though the Office will work to “implement and expand upon key executive and legislative action” passed on guns thus far, Biden emphasized that he would not stop calling on Congress to pass more sweeping policies, like so-called assault weapon and high-capacity magazine bans. The White House plans to hold a formal event with the President in the Rose Garden on Friday to make the new office official.