Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Vice President Kamala Harris will lead efforts to stem gun violence in America, a nation she described as "torn apart by the fear and trauma" of tens of thousands of firearm deaths yearly.
In a White House ceremony in the Rose Garden on Friday, President Joe Biden and Harris announced the creation of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. The new initiative was created to "accelerate" administration efforts to curb gun violence.
"I'm proud to announce the creation of the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, the first office in our history. Created by executive order, I am determined to send a clear message of how important this issue is to me and to the country," Biden said.
"Every time I've met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I've met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: Do something. It's why, last year, I signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to keep guns out of dangerous hands and have taken more executive action than any president in history to keep communities safe," Biden said.
"I'm announcing additional steps forward, with the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, overseen by Vice President Harris, to build upon these measures and keep Americans safe," he added.
At Friday's announcement, Harris said the initiative's goal is public safety.
"We are all gathered here today for a simple reason we agree that in a civil society the people must be able to shop in a grocery store, walk down the street or sit peacefully in a classroom and be safe from gun violence," Harris said. "But, instead, our nation is being torn apart by the tragedy of it all, and torn apart by the fear and trauma that results from gun violence."
She spoke of recalling the meetings with family members of people who died in mass shootings.
"I have grieved with parents who have lost a child. I have comforted children who have been traumatized by losing a parent or a sibling. We owe it to them and to those living in fear to act without delay and on this issue," Harris said.
Biden said the new office would help drive change at the local level.
"While we push for Congress to do more, we are going to centralize, accelerate and intensify our work to save more lives more quickly. That's why this new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, it's what it's designed to do. It will drive and coordinate a government and a nationwide effort to reduce gun violence in America and it will be overseen by an incredible vice president who understands this more than anybody ... that's not hyperbole, it's a fact," Biden said.
Biden drew attention to the fact that gun violence is now the top killer of children in the United States.
"Guns are the number one killer of children in America ... more than car accidents more than cancer, more than other diseases. In 2023 so far, our country has experienced more than 500 mass shootings and more than 30,000 deaths due to gun violence.
"This is totally unacceptable. It's not who we are, and we have to act, we have to act now and let me be very clear: If members of the Congress refuse to act, then we'll need to elect new members of Congress that will act, Democrat or Republican," Biden said.
White House policy adviser on gun violence prevention Stefanie Feldman will be the new Director of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, according to White House officials.
Jacksonville. Fla., Mayor Donna Deegan, who is working on a new Be Smart gun safety campaign, was in attendance at the White House event on Friday.
Also attending was Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, D-Fla., who addressed the gathering and recalled being a teenager when the Sandy Hook School shooting happened.
"As the youngest member of the United States Congress and first member of Gen Z I'm often asked what got me involved in this work, and the answer is quite simple: I didn't want to get shot in school. I was 15 years old when a shooter walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 20 children and 6 teachers and, like millions of kids, I went to school the next day with anxiety and fear that my life would be taken my friends lives would be taken and my family's lives would be taken by senseless gun violence," Frost said.