With the U.S. topping more than 400 mass shootings in 2023 alone, a prominent contingent of gun violence prevention groups — with little to no alternative in 2024 — has thrown its weight behind President Biden’s reelection bid.
Some of those same advocates, however, maintain they want to see more out of the Biden administration on the matter, even as they acknowledge he’s the only viable candidate for them when it comes to efforts to curb gun violence.
The early endorsements come from four major groups — Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady and Team ENOUGH, Community Justice Action Fund and Giffords.
The White House has pushed its limits in terms of executive powers to curb gun violence, especially given a divided Congress with little appetite to broach the subject in an election year. In its latest move, administration officials are eyeing a Justice Department-led expansion of background checks for gun purchases.
But one of the big asks advocates say the White House hasn’t come through on is the establishment of a designated office solely focused on curbing gun violence.
Community Justice, the largest Black and survivor-led advocacy group, has been consistently demanding that such an office be created in the Biden White House.
“We want to make sure the office is set up in a way that it has true authority and it can be sustained long term — even beyond this administration — and we know that may or may not require congressional action,” Executive Director Greg Jackson told The Hill.
March for Our Lives, which was created following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in 2019, has also pushed for such an office. The group doesn’t endorse candidates but “will continue to call on all of our elected officials to do more to address the root causes of gun violence — especially as the 2024 election cycle begins,” the group said.
Biden included $5 billion in funding for community violence intervention in the original iteration of the Inflation Reduction Act, but the funding was slashed in the final bill.
“The unfinished work is there’s a great deal of resources that we’ve been fighting for that have not been passed yet,” Jackson said.
The bipartisan gun safety bill Biden signed into law last summer was considered by advocates at the time as a first step. Biden in June acknowledged that he doesn’t see that legislation as “enough” and noted that the gun violence prevention movement doesn’t think it went far enough.
The school year ended last spring with an elementary school shooting in Nashville and an uptick in calls for stricter gun control measures, but no action.
However, to many advocates, Biden is the better choice when faced with the alternative.
“When you’re talking about life and death and gun violence, talking about the safety of our kids, it’s never enough. We have an unprecedented gun violence crisis in this nation. But what’s clear is that President Biden is doing something about it. He has succeeded where other people have failed,” Peter Ambler, co-founder and executive director of Giffords, told The Hill.
The White House, too, has been quick to blame Republicans for a stalemate on the matter.
Vice President Harris this week called out Republicans for putting their focus on things like changing education standards for the worse instead of acting on issues like gun violence.
“They’re banning books. All the while, they refuse to pass reasonable gun safety laws,” she said at a campaign reception in Medina, Wash.
Biden has consistently called for Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require safe storage of guns, to end gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability and to enact universal background checks.
Advocates, too, are aware of the roadblocks that lie ahead.
“I fully expect the president to continue fighting for gun safety measures in Congress, but we also know that the House majority is going to be somewhat hostile to those efforts,” Ambler said.
Even without major steps towards gun violence prevention, Biden’s willingness to at least champion the movement is enough for gun violence prevention advocates to back him again.
“I think that it’s absolutely clear that the president has an unflinching commitment to ending gun violence, and I think it’s been evident since day one of his administration, but certainly as vice president it was evident as well,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, told The Hill.
The groups said they planned to spend big on Biden in this election cycle, though they wouldn’t reveal details on just how much that would be for 2024.
Giffords is looking at “robust numbers” and plans to “build on and exceed past amounts and past efforts,” Ambler said. In 2020, the group spent over $7.5 million. Everytown spent $55 million in 2020.
Biden has already delivered a gun violence prevention message on the campaign trail.
In March in Monterey Park, Calif., following a mass shooting there in January, Biden announced an executive order to direct the Justice Department to undertake a review to increase the number of background checks conducted before gun sales.
The goal of the order is to move the U.S. as close to a system of universal background checks for all gun sales as possible without requiring legislation from Congress. Biden has also acted through executive order to ban unlicensed kits to manufacture so-called ghost guns at home.
One of Biden’s first campaign stops after he announced his reelection bid was to Connecticut, where he joined the National Safer Communities Summit to rail against Republicans in Congress.
There, he acknowledged shootings that had devastated communities in Uvalde, Texas, Pittsburgh, Pa., and Charleston, S.C., over the past few years.
“I don’t know how many times I met with people at events in the country who shake my hand and say, ‘I’m worried. There’s been another shooting not far from where I live. I’m scared to send my kid to school,’” Biden said. “It’s had a profound impact.”
Source: The Hill