By Senator Lena C. Taylor
In a landmark decision this September, President Biden boldly confronted the relentless challenge of gun violence. He established the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, a historic initiative spearheaded by Vice President Kamala Harris. Faced with the urgency of the nations’ increasing loss of death due to firearms, the administration bestowed upon the office four critical responsibilities. I appreciated the emphasis that was placed on strengthening federal partnerships with cities and states to counteract the alarming trends we are seeing.
According to a recent article by John Diedrich in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “in the past 18 years, the number of gun deaths in the state has been steadily rising”. Further the article indicated that last year, more than 800 people died from gunshot wounds, a 95% rate increase when adjusted for population growth since 2004. Surprisingly, 500 of these deaths were the result of suicide.
As a part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Safer States Initiative, there will be a real effort to empower states with the indispensable tools and support needed to effectively combat gun violence and, fundamentally, save lives. At its core, the Safer States Agenda is an exhaustive guide, meticulously detailing key actions for states to adopt in their ongoing struggle against the pervasive threat of gun violence. Therefore, there is no excuse. We should be able to reduce gun violence in our communities.
A pivotal component of the agenda is imperative for states to establish dedicated State Offices of Gun Violence Prevention. The administration is actively encouraging states to invest in evidence-informed solutions, ranging from community violence interventions to the establishment of Crime Gun Intelligence Centers and the implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The latter have been a part of bill packages introduced over the years.
I agree with the premise of the agenda that underscores the necessity of increasing the support for survivors and victims of gun violence, promoting responsible gun ownership practices, and enhancing gun background checks. It notably advocates for the enactment of universal background checks legislation and the removal of obstacles hindering enhanced background checks.
The agenda also calls for the prohibition of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, coupled with the introduction of firearm-specific liability laws. This holistic approach seeks to ensure that those impacted by gun violence receive their due in court and reiterates that responsible firearm ownership is a shared responsibility. That approach requires that all of us be engaged.
With every firearm discharge, we know that there is a person behind, in-front, or connected to that gun. Lives are changed or lost and the social toll is real. It’s time that we get real about our response.