The United States continues to deal with the issue of gun violence — from mass school shootings to neighborhood violence primarily impacting Black and brown communities. In 2020, gun homicides hit a historic high, reigniting the fight for federally funded violence prevention efforts, The Guardian reports. Many Black violence-prevention organizers used the moment to bolster their rallying cries and a much-needed public health approach to reducing shootings.
“It’s been at crisis level for a long time. And, Covid-19 brought unprecedented spikes to cities across the country. Those spikes and [President Biden’s] response to our calls for a new approach really took shape in 2020,” said Fatimah Loren Dreier, executive director of the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention (Havi).
Throughout Biden’s time in the White House, even since his days as vice president, he has advocated for gun reform. From promoting the reinstatement of a national assault weapons ban to expanding background checks during his time as VP, it’s been on his radar. And as president, he has continued those efforts, signing executive actions that deter the creation of ghost guns, clarify who counts as a gun seller, and instituting the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which bolsters mental health programs and tightens background checks for gun owners.
Now the president is taking it a step further, recently naming Vice President Kamala Harris as the new head of the nation’s first federal Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Harris will oversee operations, with longtime gun policy adviser Stefanie Feldman acting as director. Also serving as deputy directors are veteran national gun violence prevention experts Greg Jackson, leader of the Community Justice Action Fund, and Rob Wilcox of Everytown for Gun Safety.
“In the absence of that sorely-needed action, the Office of Gun Violence Prevention along with the rest of my Administration will continue to do everything it can to combat the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing our families, our communities, and our country apart,” Biden said during his announcement.
The new office will focus on continuing the administration’s efforts to prevent high-profile mass shootings and local homicides that disproportionately impact Black and Latino communities. The heightened commitment to this particular epidemic from the president’s office will hopefully bring about much-needed change to a country ravaged by gun violence. It’s something VP Harris said she’s ready to tackle head on.
“Every family, in every community, should have the freedom to live and to thrive. We know true freedom is not possible if people are not safe. This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day,” said Vice President Harris.
This article was originally posted to BOTWC