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White House tackles anxiety around gun violence: ‘Too many children dying’

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Though some trends of gun violence incidents are declining in the United States, it remains a top concern for the White House as administration officials continue to work on solutions to dramatically reduce the number of American lives killed by firearms.

Despite gun-related homicides and injuries decreasing by 8-10% in 2023 year over year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, nearly 19,000 people died by gun violence last year. 

Notably, data consistently shows Black Americans are disproportionately impacted. A report from The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence found that Black people were twice as likely to die by a firearm. 

To tackle the prevalence of gun violence across the country, which is happening on city streets and homes to churches and schools, the Biden-Harris administration’s White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention has been working to solve America’s gun epidemic. 

Since being created in September, the office, led by Vice President Kamala Harris, convened several White House meetings and traveled around the U.S. to engage with state elected officials, advocates, community leaders, and victims of gun violence in hopes of solving one of the nation’s most pressing crises. 

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was passed in June 2022 and became the first major comprehensive gun reform approved by Congress in nearly 30 years. The federal government is investing hundreds of millions of dollars toward reducing gun violence, increasing funds for background checks, and supporting grassroots organizations already on the ground in communities working to combat the violence.

Most recently, the White House announced new actions to promote the safe storage of firearms. The efforts include partnering with the U.S. Department of Education to encourage school administrators and educators to urge parents and guardians to keep guns at home unloaded and securely locked away from youth.

Vice President Kamala Harris (2nd right) speaks about the Biden Administration’s latest actions to reduce gun violence during a program on Jan. 11, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu via Getty Images)

“There are too many children dying because they have access to guns,” said Miguel Cardona, U.S. secretary of the Department of Education. He told theGrio, “If we could put half of our guns in locked spaces and put gun locks [on them], we’re going to be saving hundreds of lives in this country every year.”

While gun-related deaths are trending downward, which the White House attributes to its work to reduce gun violence, the number of children dying by firearm has steadily increased over the last decade. The rate of firearm deaths among youth under 18 increased by 87% from 2011 through 2021 in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The DOE’s latest actions to promote the safe storage of guns included proposed communications that schools can use to speak with parents about how to properly secure and store a firearm in the home, as well as issuing a guide on different types of storage devices and best practices for safely storing firearms.

Seventy-six percent of school shootings are committed by guns from the home, and the same percentage of unintentional shootings of children were committed with unsecured guns from the home. 

Data shows that American gun owners who do not keep their guns unloaded and stored away likely do so as a result of cultural anxiety around safety, which is also driving more Americans to purchase firearms.

“The president and our office understand the anxiety, which is why this office and this president are focused on solutions that make our communities safer,” said Rob Wilcox, deputy director of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. “That’s why we invested in solutions, not just to meet the anxiety but to meet the problem head-on.”

Earl J. Brake, Sr., owner of EJB’s Gun Shop, shows a gun to a customer at his store on March 14, 2023, in Capitol Heights, Maryland. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Wilcox told theGrio the administration’s proposed solutions are not intended to infringe on one’s Second Amendment rights but instead give them the “information to make choices that keep them safe in their homes and keep their kids safe from these harms.”

He further explained: “We see safe storage as an opportunity to take common sense, honestly, bipartisan approach that no matter what side of the gun debate you’re on, you would just say this is responsible…You can have accessibility if you need it, but you could also prevent someone who shouldn’t have access to that gun from getting it.”

Gun sales increased considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2022, with more than 60 million firearms sold. 

Jeremy Edwards, a White House spokesperson, told theGrio that part of the national anxiety that drove the increase in gun purchases is a result of Americans seeing news coverage of crime in their communities, including mass shootings.

“A few [days] into the new year, there was already a mass shooting at a school,” he noted.

Edwards said the White House isn’t proposing an “either-or proposition” when it comes to taking actions to reduce gun violence, adding, “We want people to feel safe in their communities.”

“If you want to own a gun, that’s your Second Amendment right to do so, but we want to make sure that folks have the knowledge and the resources to not create more anxiety,” he explained. 

When a citizen decides to bring a gun into the home, for whatever reason, Edwards said the administration hopes they will take steps using the “resources available” from the White House and Department of Justice that says, “Here are a few things that you can do to make sure you’re protecting yourself and your family.”

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Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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