2021 was one of the worst years on record for gun violence, and it is clear that executive action is the only way to implement federal solutions. March For Our Lives calls for bold, urgent action that meets this moment.
New York, NY – As the President celebrates his first year in office, we are horrified by the escalating epidemic of gun violence that has continued under his watch. As a candidate, the President pledged to end the epidemic of gun violence. But as our leader in the White House, he has simply tinkered at the edges, rather than coordinating a whole-of-government response that treats this crisis like the emergency that it is.
The President has taken some welcome and overdue steps towards tackling the epidemic. He directed the Justice Department to pass a ruling on ghost guns and fund community violence interventions, actions all the more necessary given the failure of the Build Back Better Act which contains funding for such programming. His Center for Disease Control has, for the first time ever, acknowledged the gun violence epidemic and committed resources to studying it. But while these actions, among others, are important, the simple fact is that gun deaths in Biden’s first year still loomed at the record level they reached in 2020. The President has not met the bare minimum of what’s necessary to reverse this trend.
The fact is, gun violence is at a fever pitch. Guns are now the leading cause of death for children in America. Yet the President and this congress refuse to take simple actions that would save lives. President Biden has acted as a real friend to the gun violence prevention movement, and for that we are thankful. But he has not acted as the leader that he promised to be. As the President has said himself, the buck stops with him. He is the leader of the Democratic party, and we cannot accept an abdication of his responsibility—he cannot pass the buck to congress, he must demonstrate real leadership on this issue.
As we have said before, we are pleading with the President to appoint a cabinet-level Director of Gun Violence Prevention to lead the White House’s charge to combat gun violence. The scale of the crisis demands this leadership; it cannot simply be one piece in a portfolio—gun violence victims deserve more than that. We’ve also called for a suite of other actions the President can take immediately to tangibly begin to put a dent in this epidemic.
The pitfalls of the President’s current direction can be seen in the blocked confirmation of ATF nominee David Chipman, who candidly laid bare the White House’s lobbying failure on the issue and the dire need for a White House coordinator on gun violence. We see it as well in the President’s inability to use his bully pulpit to demand action from Congress—including by failing to visit Oxford, Michigan—despite it being the site of the worst school shooting since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. We see it in his Justice Department’s continuing defense of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, which affords immunity to gun manufacturers despite their unethical and, at times, even illegal behavior. Most horrifyingly, we see it in the continued loss of life under President Biden’s watch, and in the families and communities shattered by a government that refuses to defend our right to live, and our right to live free from the fear of gun violence.
On the President’s anniversary, at the conclusion of one of the most deadly years for gun violence in our nation’s history, we must ask the President bluntly: Mr. President, have you done enough? We fear his answer, and boldly demand action for the sake of our lives.