By Karen Stokes
The White House hosted nearly 100 lawmakers from around the country on Wednesday to discuss how their states can try to reduce gun violence.
Vice President Kamala Harris launched the Biden-Harris Administration’s Safer States Initiative to provide states with additional tools and the support they need.
In September 2023, President Biden established the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention to reduce gun violence, which has negatively impacted communities across the country. The goal is to implement and expand upon key executive and legislative action which has been taken to save lives.
The office is assigned four primary responsibilities, one of which is to strengthen the federal government’s collaborations with cities and states, supporting their initiatives to reduce gun violence.
“We are fighting just for what is reasonable and, of course, what is right,” Vice President Harris said Wednesday at an event unveiling the initiative before 100 state legislators from 39 states, including several with Republican-controlled legislatures.”
“We’ve been meeting with the state legislators ever since the start of our office, and one thing we hear all the time is they want to do more to reduce gun violence,” said Stefanie Feldman, director of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention in a call with reporters. “The question is, what should they do and how?”
To kick off the initiative, the White House is releasing the Biden-Harris Safer States Agenda, outlining kney actions states should take, including to invest in gun violence prevention, such as community violence intervention programs; to bolster support for survivors and victims affected by gun violence; to push for safe storage and reporting of lost and stolen firearms; and to enact legislation to strengthen background checks and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
To help states advance this agenda, the Justice Department is announcing two new executive actions to reduce gun violence. The first provides states with safe storage model legislation, detailing how states can require safe storage of guns — and hold people legally responsible for injury caused by an unsecured weapon. The second offers a model for the reporting of lost and stolen firearms, in an effort to assist law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting crimes.
“These are all policies where the White House in this administration have made progress at the federal level,” said Feldman. “And we are going to continue to call on Congress to act but in the meantime, we are going to be working hand in hand with states to advance all these agenda items.”
In 2023, so far there were 39 gun-related mass killings, marking the highest count in the database that spans from 2006. The previous record from last year was 36, according to data from the Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University.
The meeting concluded with Vice President Harris saying, “The work that you are each doing is proof of the strength of the character of your leadership. It is proof of the measure of your strength. Because our collective desire to end the fact that gun violence is the number one killer of children in America, to end the fact that one in five Americans has a family member that was killed by gun violence — that quest is truly about the strength of who you are as leaders.”