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White House creates office for gun violence prevention

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday announced the creation of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, saying the steps his administration is taking "will save lives." 

The office, which Harris will oversee, is intended to find a way around congressional inaction on stronger gun control laws. As the president announced the new office, he thanked affected family members who found "purpose in your pain."

"Because of all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families advocates, especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all, who have protested, organized, voted and ran for office and yes, marched for their lives, I'm proud to announce the creation of the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, the first office in our history," the president declared in the White House Rose Garden.

Rep. Maxwell Frost, the first Gen Z member of Congress and advocate of further action on guns, introduced the president Friday.  

The White House says the office is intended to implement the president's executive orders on gun violence and the most recent gun legislation passed by Congress, the 2022 bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which enhances background checks for gun buyers under 21, provides funding for mental health services and closes the so-called "boyfriend loophole" to prevent convicted domestic abusers from purchasing a firearm for five years. It's not yet clear what the office's role would be, but the White House says that having dedicated staff on hand within the White House will help expedite its objectives.

Aside from implementing the Safer Communities Act and his executive orders, the office will also coordinate more support for survivors, including mental health care and financial assistance, "the same way FEMA responds to natural disasters."

"Look folks, shootings are the ultimate super storms, ripping through communities."

The office will also try to identify new executive actions to reduce gun violence and expand the administration's partnerships with state and local organizations. 

"Folks, to be clear, none of these steps alone is going to solve the entirety of the gun violence epidemic," the president said."None of them. But together, they will save lives."

Mr. Biden is still urging Congress to enact universal background checks, and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Congress failed to pass those changes when Democrats controlled the House and the Senate. 

"While we push for Congress to do more, we're going to centralize, accelerate and intensify our work to save more lives more quickly," the president said. "That's why this new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, that's what it's designed to do." 

 And he had a message for current members of Congress and voters. 

"Let me be very clear," the president said. "If members of Congress refuse to act, then we'll need to elect new members of Congress that will act, Democrat or Republican."

Last month, a coalition of gun control groups endorsed Mr. Biden's reelection bid

Gun violence has spiked in many cities throughout the country compared to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And a study this year published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found fatalities from gun violence have increased over time, with more victims dying at the scene of a shooting before they can reach medical facilities.

Despite Congress' resistance, Mr. Biden continues to advocate for a new assault weapons ban

Mr. Biden and Harris have both visited the sites of mass shootings that occurred during their administration, including Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.

File: President Joe Biden embraces Mandy Gutierrez, the principal of Robb Elementary School, as he and first lady Jill Biden pay their in Uvalde, Texas on May 29, 2022.  MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
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