President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris announced Friday the establishment of a new “Office of Gun Violence Prevention,” an executive entity run from the White House. Harris said the organization will be “engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made.” Which, in essence, is a whole lot of nothing. So, let’s look at what we know about the new office, who will be working there, and what they can be expected to actually do.
Who works there?
One can tell a lot about such entities by looking at who works there. Harris has been touted as the new “Gun Violence Czar,” and she may have some policy input, but it looks like she’ll be the figurehead while others do the real work. Some speculate that this assignment gives Harris a high-profile project to bolster her fading popularity leading up to the 2024 election. It was Harris who made the initial announcement at the White House’s Rose Garden event, while Biden spoke later.
The new office will be run by longtime Biden aide Stefanie Feldman, who has worked for the president for over a decade on various policy issues, including as National Policy Director for the Biden-Harris presidential campaign. Since gun control, including bans and confiscations, was a big part of Biden’s campaign, it’s not difficult to deduce Feldman’s views on the subject.
Feldman’s assistants will be Brady and Everytown for Gun Safety policy advisor Rob Wilcox, who has appeared before Congress several times advocating for extreme measures such as gun bans. His most recent job was Senior Director of Federal Government Affairs at Everytown, a Michael Bloomberg organization. He is joined by Greg Jackson, leader of the Community Justice Action Fund, a gun control group focusing on minority communities.
That Biden is staffing the office with hard-core gun controllers isn’t surprising, given his constant rhetoric. But it also tells us that the office’s real job won’t be prevention. It will be restriction and infringement.
What will the new office do?
Harris spouted the usual political speak regarding the office’s job, saying it “will continue to do everything it can to combat the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing our families, our communities, and our country apart,” and “will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce gun violence to the fullest extent under the law…”
But there is a kernel of actual information there. Harris said, “under the fullest extent under the law.” What that means is the administration will continue to look for ways around what they perceive as Congressional intransigence on gun control. Biden has always been clear about his anti-gun agenda. Congress gave him a small opening last year with the so-called “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” and the administration has sought to exploit every bit of that opening, even going so far as to try denying federal funding to schools with hunting safety and archery programs. The office will certainly use the law’s funding incentives for state implementation of Red Flag laws, of which few states have availed themselves so far. Expect increased pressure on states without those laws.
I also expect a continuation of the administration’s use of the Justice Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) as a Congressional workaround. It looks like all those efforts will ultimately be found unconstitutional, but, in the meantime, ATF is harassing gun owners and — more importantly for them — gun manufacturers and gun dealers. Hurting the industry is a primary goal, because many of those dealers and smaller manufacturers will never come back once they are forced out of business. Look for this office to emphasize those tactics.
The administration, including Feldman, understands that only Congress can make laws. Still, they will seek every opening to push rules and restrictions through the Executive Branch, as well as dangle carrots in front of states and even localities. They understand that once such restrictions are in place, removing them is a long and often expensive process. Jackson and Wilcox have the knowledge and the willingness to implement such actions. Wilcox has repeatedly shown himself to be a gun control true believer, who seems to think that gun bans will stop murders, evidence, not to mention Constitutionality, to the contrary.
The Usual Suspects
Prominent gun control advocates were unsurprisingly supportive of the new program, led by Biden himself, who said, “I’ll continue to urge Congress to take commonsense actions that the majority of Americans support like enacting universal background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. But in the absence of that sorely needed action, the Office of Gun Violence Prevention along with the rest of my Administration will continue to do everything it can to combat the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing our families, our communities, and our country apart.”
Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, the Senate’s leading gun controller, lauded the new office, saying it “will save thousands of lives and strengthen the federal government’s implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.” Murphy sponsored a bill that would create such an office in the Justice Department, though it failed to pass.
Florida Congressman Maxwell Frost, who introduced a twin bill in the House of Representatives, was on hand at the Rose Garden announcement, speaking directly after Harris. Frost is the youngest member of Congress and has been loud in his support for gun control, voicing some truly remarkable propaganda on the House floor. The fact that Congress had no appetite for either bill further indicates the administration’s goal of circumventing the legislative process.
Mom’s Demand Action leader Shannon Watts and the Brady group’s Kris Brown also expressed enthusiastic support, claiming that lives will be saved. But we expect them to say such things.
The Elephant in the Room
All these folks, Biden, Harris, Frost, Murphy, Watts, Brown, and all the others say this will save thousands of lives. But they don’t say how. They offer reams of restrictions on lawful gun owners and gun dealers, but nothing on criminals. They claim they want to keep guns out of the wrong hands, while targeting the law-abiding and refusing to acknowledge that criminals, by definition, don’t care about their laws.
The Office of Gun Violence Prevention, ultimately, seems to be about three things. First, it will seek to restrict lawful gun owners and dealers as much as possible by working around Congress. You know, because that’s what the Constitution’s Framers intended when they granted sole legislative power to the House and Senate. Second, it will serve as a propaganda outlet to push the administration’s anti-gun agenda. Finally, it’s a bone for Biden’s anti-gun constituents who have long pressured him to “do something.” Those constituents include the groups represented by Watts, Brown, Jackson, and Wilcox, among others, whose willingness to gut the Constitution is well known.
This new office is dangerous, not because I expect it to catalyze sweeping change, but because it will work around the edges, blurring the lines between the Executive and Legislative Branches. And it will do that deliberately in the name of “public safety.”
I like to remind people that the worst excesses of the French Revolution’s “Reign of Terror” were carried out by the so-called “Committee of Public Safety.” The Committee exercised broad power over the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Revolutionary government. In other words, it blurred the lines. Is this office on that level? No, not even close. But its claims to look out for the public are expressed along the same lines, and you have to start somewhere.