WASHINGTON — The White House is hosting nearly 100 lawmakers from around the country on Wednesday to work on how their states can try to reduce gun violence.
The gun violence prevention office, the first of its kind, was launched this year by President Joe Biden. It has formulated a set of guidelines to help states take action across six areas, including creating state-run offices like the federal office, strengthening support for survivors and families of victims, and reinforcing responsible gun ownership.
“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?”
Lawmakers from 39 states are attending Wednesday’s gathering, including legislators from 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 university and more than 150 rounds of ammunition, police said.
Vice President Kamala Harris is overseeing the office and will speak to the lawmakers on Wednesday.
Biden, a Democrat, has called gun violence “the ultimate superstorm,” affecting not just victims but the everyday lives of community members. His administration says it believes the response to gun violence should better resemble how the government acts after natural disasters. The office of gun violence prevention is an effort to create a centralized response from the federal government and a place where communities can turn for resources.
The issue figures heavily into Biden’s 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 assault weapons.
Before the meeting, the Justice Department came up with model legislation that state lawmakers can take back to their legislatures on safe storage of weapons and on reporting lost and stolen firearms. 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.