President Biden speaks about gun violence during a summit on June 16, 2023 in West Hartford, Conn.
President Biden speaks about gun violence during a summit on June 16, 2023 in West Hartford, Conn. [John Moore | Getty Images]

Biden is creating a new White House office focused on gun violence prevention

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WASHINGTON (NPR) — President Biden is creating a new office for gun violence prevention to coordinate his administration’s efforts to reduce gun violence and elevate an issue that — while stalled in Congress — remains important to Democratic activists and young voters.

The plan was confirmed by three people with knowledge of the details who spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement, which is expected on Friday. The news was first reported in the Washington Post. The White House declined comment.

It’s a move long sought by gun-control activists, who have been privately advocating for such an office for years and it comes as hopes of additional gun reform legislation seem unlikely.

Biden is expected to announce the new office at the White House on Friday, where he’ll be introduced by Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., the first Gen Z member of the House of Representatives.

Frost, along with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has introduced legislation to create an office of gun violence prevention within the Justice Department.

The issue is personal for both lawmakers. Murphy has been a leading proponent of gun control legislation since the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults.

Frost, who was in high school at the time of the shooting, considers it a principal reason he first got involved in politics. Before running for Congress, he also worked for the youth-run gun control organization March For Our Lives.

The new office is expected to be led by Stefanie Feldman, currently White House staff secretary, who has worked on policy issues with Biden for more than a decade. Activists hope the office will enable Biden to make more use of his presidential bully pulpit to push for more gun safety measures.

Children hold up signs protesting gun violence along a road. The child in front has a white sign with black and red lettering that reads I don't want to be murdered at school.
People protest against gun violence on May 7, 2023 in Allen, Texas, after a mass shooting at an outlet mall in the community. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]

Gun violence is a top-of-mind issue for young voters

Reports about the announcement were praised by advocates like David Hogg, who co-founded March For Our Lives after a mass shooting at his high school in Parkland, Fla., five years ago.

“There’s been a paradigm shift, I think, in American politics around guns,” Hogg told NPR. “[Democrats are] no longer running from this issue. They’re running on it and proudly,” he added.

During the 2018 midterm elections, addressing gun violence became a major part of the national Democratic campaign playbook. That was the first time gun control groups spent more money than gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.

The president has called for “common sense” regulations and a ban on assault-style weapons. Republicans and a small number of Democrats oppose the measures.

Advocates say Biden’s new announcement helps show he is willing to act unilaterally on an issue important to young voters — at a time when he needs to energize this crucial voting bloc ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

The announcement will come days after the White House announced a new Climate Corps job training program, also aimed at appealing to younger Americans.

Hogg said Biden needs young voters to win reelection. “That’s not even my opinion. That’s just objectively true. He needs young voters to win again, he especially needs younger voters of color that were critical to his election in 2020,” he said.

'March For Our Lives' and activists rallied with parents from Uvalde and Santa Fe at the Texas Capitol.
Family members speak about the victims of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, during a March For Our Lives rally on Aug. 27, 2022 in Austin. [Brandon Bell | Getty Images]

Public opinion has shifted on guns

Po Murray also applauded reports of the new office. Murray, a resident of Sandy Hook, was a neighbor of the shooter who carried out the deadly attack in her town in 2012.

“We need a White House team to focus on this issue on a daily basis,” said Murray, chair of the Newtown Action Alliance, a grassroots organization started after the shooting. “It is a national crisis,” she said.

Murray argued that public opinion is on Biden’s side. In a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, a majority of Americans said it’s more important to curb gun violence than protect gun rights.

“I do believe that the president is aware that this is a winning issue for him, and it is the high political ground. And obviously it’s a high moral ground,” she said.

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