The daily drumbeat of Democrats demanding Joe Biden get to work on his anti-gun agenda continues, with Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia and Rep. Joe Neguse penning a letter to the president calling on the White House to create a national director of gun violence position. In the letter, first reported by Axios, the pair claim that “”a comprehensive government approach to address this violence, will help bring our nation out from under the depths of the gun violence crisis.”
What exactly would this position entail? The representatives claim that the director could coordinate “gun violence prevention strategies” between government agencies like the ATF, DOJ, Health and Human Services, and the CDC. Of course, what gun control activists are truly hoping for is to use that position as a bully pulpit to push for sweeping anti-gun legislation and executive orders.
The idea of a national director for gun violence prevention (“gun control czar” would be a more accurate description) first came from the activists at March For Our Lives, who included the recommendation in their “peace plan” that also calls for changing the “standard of gun ownership.”
Advocate and pass legislation to raise the national standard for gun ownership: a national licensing and registry system that promotes responsible gun ownership; a ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and other weapons of war; policies to disarm gun owners who pose a risk to themselves or others; and a national gun buy-back program to reduce the estimated 265-393 million firearms in circulation by at least 30%.
In the eyes of the anti-gun activists, a gun control czar would not only help to shepherd those legislative proposals through Congress, but would also oversee a wide variety of executive actions and departmental regulations restricting the rights of legal gun owners.
Appoint a National Director of Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) who reports directly to the President, with the mandate to operationalize our federal goals and empower existing federal agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – agencies that have all been structurally weakened by the gun lobby. The National Director of GVP would begin by overseeing a down payment of $250 million in annual funding for research by the CDC and other federal agencies on gun violence prevention.
So, the idea of a gun control czar isn’t exactly a new one, but so far the White House has been mum about whether or not Biden will actually create the position. At the moment, Biden hasn’t even named a nominee to head up the ATF itself, nor has the president signed any executive actions on firearms or put forward his own gun ban legislation, despite growing frustration on the part of gun control groups for the new administration to get to work while Democrats still have a legislative majority in Congress.
With Congress poised to approve a $1.9-trillion COVID-related stimulus bill this weekend, Biden will soon have his first major agenda item taken care of, and its expected that he will soon turn his attention to the growing chorus of gun-banners urging him to get moving on his gun control agenda. A gun control czar would not be a cabinet-level position and wouldn’t require Senate confirmation, so Biden could name Shannon Watts or another gun control activist as his pick and they could get started almost immediately.
It’s worth noting, though, that while several gun control groups and anti-gun politicians have demanded the creation of the position, we haven’t heard any names mentioned about who might fill the role. Sure, Biden told Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke on the campaign trail that the job was his, but O’Rourke looks to be sticking around the state of Texas and mulling his next campaign, at least at the moment.
I was half-serious when I mentioned Shannon Watts, but honestly she might be a little white and suburban to satisfy younger and more urban-based anti-violence activists like Eddie Bocanegro, who’s already complained that the Biden White House is giving too much time and attention to groups like Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety.
“We have incidents where there’s three or four people getting shot [daily] and we don’t get the same kind of uproar and attention for those kinds of homicides and mainly because they’re Black and brown people,” said Eddie Bocanegra, senior director of the progressive Heartland Alliance’s READI Chicago chapter, who has spoken to the White House.
Earlier this month, Heartland was among the coalition of organizations representing communities of color which sent a letter to the Biden administration expressing disappointment that they were not included in a gathering the White House held with more establishment gun control groups. According to four people who were involved in recent meetings, the White House moved quickly to rectify the situation and has since held at least two virtual calls with advocates from groups across the country.
Bocanegra said he was happy with the audience he received at the White House. But he still expressed frustration that white-led gun control groups appeared to be getting more attention after he had spent days helping the Biden transition on policy.
“I want to see my return on that investment,” he said.
Gun control groups that spent tens of millions of dollars helping Biden get elected would like to see a return on their investment as well. If Joe Biden does end up creating a director of gun violence prevention, he will likely have to then deal with the demands of various interest groups within the gun control movement about who gets the nod and what they should focus on; law enforcement-based policies that rely on arrests and prosecutions or community-based intervention programs that are meant to reduce violence without utilizing cops and the courts.