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White House Announces New State-Based Gun Violence Initiative


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Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a gathering of state legislators at the White House on Wednesday, an event designed to roll out new policies from the administration to combat gun violence at the state level.

Harris announced the Biden administration’s new “Safer States Initiative,” and unveiled two new executive actions — the first ones announced by the two-month-old White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

“I have held local, state, and federal office … I know that many of you have held the hands and have hugged and tried to comfort community members and your constituents and people you know who have suffered because of gun violence,” Harris said. “And I therefore know that when we have this conversation and address this crisis that, for everyone here, it is personal.”

The initiative outlines steps states should take to combat gun violence, and the White House will work with officials to provide necessary resources for implementation.

The administration is encouraging state officials to establish their own state-level gun violence prevention offices; 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 stole firearms; and to enact legislation to strengthen background checks and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“These are all policies where the White House in this administration have made progress at the federal level,” said Stefanie Feldman, the director of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, in a call with reporters. “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.”

Harris highlighted two new executive actions from the Department of Justice as part of the announcement. 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.

Both the president and vice president have talked repeatedly about safe storage laws. The majority of K-12 shooters use firearms they’ve obtained from their home or the home of a friend, Feldman noted, and the White House believes these laws can not only reduce school shootings but also suicide by firearm. And for the administration’s push on lost or stolen firearms, a Department of Justice official said it can help local and state law enforcement solve crimes and also “identify recurring patterns,” such as firearms trafficking.

The new actions from the White House gun office come on the heels of a string of mass shootings this fall, adding to the long list of 636 in this year alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

While President Joe Biden has signed a slew of executive orders to date, the administration’s latest effort encourages state-level policy changes — a response, in part, to inaction from Congress and increasingly protective rulings on gun possession and ownership from the courts. Many gun safety experts see more appetite for policy changes at the state level in the near term.

“All across the country — in Memphis, in Nevada, in Chicago, all parts of the country — each one of the tragedies that have been in national headlines recently have demonstrated how important it is to have strong federal legislation but also strong state and local legislation,” a senior administration official told reporters, previewing the announcement. “And we certainly want to show up as partners for states to help them advance their efforts to save lives.”

The White House invited legislators from every state to attend Wednesday’s event, the senior administration official said. Legislators from Maine were in attendance, just months after a shooter killed 18 people in Lewiston.



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