WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Wednesday hosted nearly 100 lawmakers from around the country to discuss how their states can try to better reduce gun violence. "You’re not in it alone,” Vice President Kamala Harris told them.
“We’ve been meeting with the state legislators ever since the start of our office, and one thing we hear all the time is they want to do more to reduce gun violence,” said Stefanie Feldman, director of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention. “The question is, what should they do and how?”
The gathering attracted lawmakers from 39 states, including Nevada, where a gunman last week killed three faculty members and wounded a fourth in a roughly 10-minute rampage at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. That shooter had a list of targets at the school and more than 150 rounds of ammunition, police said.
Harris, tasked by Biden with running the office, told the lawmakers it was “our responsibility, our chosen responsibility, dare I say our duty, to do the work of laying the path to get where we need to go. ... And there are best practices to be fair, including not only what people write in terms of proposing legislation, but how you think about work and how you will think about messaging, how you will think about empowering and uplifting.”
Biden has called gun violence “the ultimate superstorm,” affecting not just victims but also community members in their daily lives. The Democrat's administration says it believes the response to gun violence should better resemble how the government acts after natural disasters. The new White House office is an effort to create a centralized response from the federal government and be a place where communities can turn for resources.
The issue figures heavily into the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign, which hopes to reach younger voters who are deeply concerned about gun violence. The president has also pushed for a ban on so-called assault weapons.
“I do believe that when that generation starts voting in their numbers, we’re going to see an abrupt change," Harris said.
She said there were real challenges in addressing gun violence but that "we’re up against some who would suggest a false choice. That is that you are either favoring the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.”
“I’ll speak for myself: I am absolutely in favor of the Second Amendment. And I’m also in favor of an assault weapons ban."
Before the meeting, the Justice Department came up with model legislation on safe storage of weapons and on reporting lost and stolen firearms, and state lawmakers can take that back to their legislatures. Some shootings in schools, for example, are committed with weapons found at home or at the home of a friend. Weapons that go lost or missing often end up being used in crimes.
As of Wednesday, there had been at least 42 mass killings in the United States this year, leaving at least 217 people dead, not including shooters who died, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University.
Mass shootings are only part of the problem of gun violence. The measures are also meant to address domestic violence killings, community violence and suicides.
Follow the AP's coverage of gun violence at https://apnews.com/hub/gun-violence.