Caitlin Doherty ’26
On Friday, Sept. 19, President Biden established a federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention, aiming to address an issue that takes over 40,000 lives per year in the United States. This office will work to enforce firearm regulation statutes and to enhance distribution of existing funds for community violence intervention, mental health and school safety programs. Earlier in the 2022-2023 federal legislative session, Representative Maxwell Frost of Florida, the first Gen Z member of Congress, introduced the Office of Gun Violence Prevention Act of 2023, which received 90 cosponsors. Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut introduced a companion bill in the Senate as well; however, with a Republican majority in the House and a split Senate, it was extremely unlikely the bill would pass during this session. As an advocate of gun violence prevention measures since his co-sponsorship of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban as a senator, President Biden removed this decision from Congress’s power by creating the office through an executive action. Representative Frost introduced Biden as he made the announcement at the White House to an audience of policymakers, advocates and gun violence survivors on Sept. 19.
“Before he took office, I wrote to President Biden, asking him to create ‘a White House-led interagency gun violence prevention task force to ensure leadership, expertise, and coherent policy making around gun safety priorities,’” said former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords in a press release. Giffords was shot in the head during a mass shooting in 2011, during which six individuals died and at least 12 others were shot. Members of the movement have been relentlessly advocating for presidential action on this crisis for decades. “Today, President Biden answered our calls by creating an Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Gun violence won’t be stopped overnight, but every step forward will save lives—and today’s announcement is a giant step forward.”
Biden assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to head the office, and one of the administration’s lead policy advisors, Stefanie Feldman, will serve as its director. Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox, two leading figures in the gun violence prevention movement, were appointed as deputy directors. Attorney Rob Wilcox worked as a Director of Policy with Everytown for Gun Safety for several years, and gun violence survivor Greg Jackson led the Community Justice Action Fund, an organization that recognizes the racial inequality of gun violence and seeks to end it at the community level, for four years. They have already begun their work in establishing the office, the first of its kind at the national level.
“Today’s announcement demonstrates that gun violence prevention can and must be a priority for our government. The White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention will work on this central issue day-in and day-out, coordinating across federal agencies and community leaders to bring to bear the types of comprehensive, non-partisan solutions and support resources that are necessary to keep all Americans safe,” said Trinity alum Nicole Hockley ’92 in a press release. The co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, she lost her son Daniel during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Ever since, she has advocated for legislative change so others will not have to experience the same pain. “Sitting in the Rose Garden today, alongside countless survivors and advocates that have dedicated their life’s mission to delivering freedom from fear and violence, is bittersweet… Today’s announcement does not change our history, but it can change our future.”