President Joe Biden on Friday unveiled a new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, a step he said was part of an effort “to send a clear message about how important this issue is to me and the country.
In a speech in the White House Rose Garden, the president detailed his experience traveling to the sites of mass shootings across the country, including after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 as vice president.
“Anyone who doesn’t think that these kinds of engagements have a permanent effect on young children … these were hardened, tough cops, asking me, could I get them psychiatric help?” he asked, raising his voice.
An official told reporters on a call Thursday previewing the announcement that the office’s mandate will be twofold – it will be tasked with implementing and expediting last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the president’s signature gun legislation, and with finding additional actions within the president’s purview to stem the flow of gun violence.
The announcement comes just days after a group of congressional Democrats in a letter called on Biden to leverage “the full power of the executive branch” to combat gun violence. In March, a day after a mass shooting left six dead in Nashville, Biden told reporters, “I have gone the full extent of my executive authority to do, on my own, anything about guns.”
Biden on Friday took the opportunity to tout the steps his administration had taken to address the scourge of gun violence.
“To date my administration has announced dozens of executive actions to reduce gun violence – more than any of my predecessors at this point in their presidencies, and they include everything from cracking down on ghost guns, breaking up gun trafficking, and so much more,” he said.
“And last year with the help – with your help I signed into law the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun safety law in almost 30 years. It expanded background checks, expands the use of red flag laws, improves access to mental health services and so much more. This historic law will save lives. It’s a really important first step.”
Vice President Kamala Harris will head the new office, Biden said.
Biden said Harris “understands this more than any vice president ever – no, really. That’s not hyperbole, that’s a fact. She’s been on the front lines of this her entire career as a prosecutor, as an attorney general and as a United States senator. Her deep experience will be invaluable for this office.”
And he thanked the gun safety advocates assembled in the Rose Garden for their work.
“We’re never going to forget your loved ones, we’re never going to get there unless we remember. You know, I know we will do this because I know you – heroes, heroes proving that even with heavy hearts, you have unbreakable spirits,” he said.
CORRECTION: This headline and story have been updated to reflect the correct name of the office.