Chicago mayor, Cook County Board president at White House for Biden’s gun safety office launch
Vice President Kamala Harris will oversee the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Mayor Brandon Johnson, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., attended Friday’s kick-off ceremony.
By Lynn Sweet
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in the Rose Garden Friday at an event where President Joe Biden (left) announced the formation of a new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
WASHINGTON — With the nation grappling with chronic gun violence — and with Congress unlikely to pass any new laws — President Joe Biden on Friday launched a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, with Mayor Brandon Johnson, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., in the Rose Garden for the kick-off ceremony.
Vice President Kamala Harris will oversee the new office Biden created by executive order, as the focus of the White House and the groups working to curb gun violence increasingly look to state and local laws to take actions, since Republicans in Congress have no inclination to back more gun-related measures.
The new office will “drive and coordinate a government and a nationwide effort to curb gun violence in America,” Biden said.
Added Harris: “With this new office, we will use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”
The office will have four “primary responsibilities,” Biden said:
• Implement the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and other gun-related executive orders already announced. Biden signed the Safer Communities law in June 2022, with Congress acting for the first time in almost three decades, moving legislation in the wake of mass slaughters in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York. Biden celebrated passage of that law at a an event on the South Lawn in July 2022 — a week after a gunman, using an assault weapon, killed seven people and wounded dozens of others at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade.
The safer communities law did not include an assault weapons ban or even put limits on high-capacity magazines. Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Jan. 10 signed into law a measure banning the sale and distribution of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in Illinois.
• Coordinate more support for survivors, their families and communities impacted by gun violence. Biden said he envisioned a federal government response “the same way FEMA responds to natural disasters.” That would include mental health services and financial assistance.
• Identify new executive actions Biden can take.
• As Biden said, “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America. …. We need more state and local help to get these laws passed locally as well.”
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson discusses gun violence in an interview outside the White House on Friday. Johnson was in Washington for a Rose Garden event launching a new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
Johnson, asked what this new White House office could do for Chicago, called it “a real good opportunity” to coordinate state, federal and local efforts. Johnson, sworn in last May, noted he created a City Hall office for community safety, appointing a deputy mayor to focus on the gun issue.
Preckwinkle, who was at that White House event marking the Safer Communities Act passage, was asked what the office could accomplish.
“We always need more resources,” she said. “And if there is a point of contact to try to secure those resources, I think that is tremendously helpful. And having an office in the federal administration that has this as their mission, to work with local units of governments to meet the challenges that gun violence presents, I think will be very helpful.”
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was at the White House Friday for an event launching a new gun safety office.
Kelly, whose district runs from the South Side of Chicago to near Kankakee, was asked about the impact this office could have on the Chicago area. She said this could help all the local and national gun groups coordinate more.
“There will be more investments in neighborhoods and underserved communities and our youth. I always say nothing stops a bullet like an opportunity.”