(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden called on voters to elect more members of Congress who support strengthening controls on firearms as he announced the creation of a White House office dedicated to preventing gun violence.
“Let me be very clear. If members of the Congress refuse to act, then we’ll need to elect new members of Congress,” Biden said Friday at an event at the Rose Garden, adding that the US had reached the point “where the safety of our kids from gun violence is on the ballot.”
Creation of the new office is a long-held goal of gun-control activists, and comes as Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign is kicking into a higher gear. Young people, who overwhelmingly support stricter gun laws, will be a critical voting bloc for Biden, who has repeatedly urged lawmakers to ban assault-style weapons, toughen universal background checks and strengthen safe-storage laws.
Vice President Kamala Harris will oversee the new office, with Stefanie Feldman, a White House staffer who has worked with Biden since his time as vice president, as director. Feldman has spent over a decade working on gun-control policy.
“We will use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives,” Harris said Friday, recounting how she’s asked students she’s met with if they’ve ever taken part in an active shooter drill.
“Every time, a sea of hands goes up,” she said.
The office will engage with local and state-level officials to fully implement the first major gun-safety legislation passed in 30 years, which Biden signed into law last year when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. With Republicans now controlling the US House, additional gun legislation is unlikely.
As of Thursday, more than 500 mass shootings have been recorded in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit group that tracks the incidents.
Gun control advocates have been pushing Biden since he took office to appoint a specific staffer or agency to oversee gun violence issues.
“Having a centralized place that’s staffed with real experts from the movement is a huge step forward,” said Adzi Vokhiwa, federal affairs director at gun-control group Giffords.
Greg Jackson, executive director of Community Justice Action Fund, and Rob Wilcox, senior director of federal government affairs at Everytown for Gun Safety — both survivors of gun violence — will serve as deputy directors of the new office.
Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun-safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
--With assistance from Justin Sink.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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