It says a lot about our nation and its rampant gun violence when the Sun-Times story on last weekend’s shootings stressed it was the first time since late January that no one was killed by gunfire between Friday night and early Monday morning.
Get that: The fact that nearly two dozen people were shot wasn’t what was shocking. The surprise was that no one was killed.
But just because Chicago — and America — have gotten used to hearing and reading about the carnage doesn’t mean they aren’t disturbed or sickened by it. The majority — 60% — say that gun violence and violent crime are a “very big national problem,” and most — 62% — expect the gun violence to get worse over the next five years, according to a report the Pew Research Center released in June.
And while there are differences on how Republicans and Democrats believe gun ownership affects public safety, most Americans are in favor of stricter gun laws, the report found.
President Joe Biden’s launch of the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention raises hope that maybe, just maybe, a concerted national effort — that gets past congressional inaction — will finally reduce the bloodshed.
Among the goals are to offer assistance and guidance to states grappling with gun violence, coordinate more support for survivors and ensure the bipartisan gun legislation that was signed into law last year is fully implemented.
The office, which gun control activists have been demanding for a while, will also try to identify new executive actions the administration can take, within its legal authority, to make America safer.
None of those steps alone will end our gun violence epidemic, but together they will “save lives,” Biden said at the White House Rose Garden before an attentive crowd that included Mayor Brandon Johnson and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Every time there is a mass shooting in the country, the message is the same: “Do something, please do something,” Biden said.
Biden, who has not been able to pass a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines because of Republican opposition, also called on elected leaders and voters to take a stand. “If members of the Congress refuse to act, then we’ll need to elect new members of Congress that will act, Democrat or Republican.”
Stefanie Feldman, a longtime policy adviser to the president on gun violence prevention, will serve as the director of the office, and Vice President Kamala Harris will oversee it.
That ought to be good news to John Schmidt of the Gun Violence Prevention PAC-Illinois, who told us it’s crucial the staff includes someone who reports directly to the president.
“The office matters if it actually has an impact,” said Schmidt, who embraced the creation of the office but is taking a “wait and see” approach about what will really be accomplished.
“I don’t want to say it’s pure PR, but there needs to be an element of expression of the president’s commitment (to the office) and determination to stand behind it,” Schmidt said.
He has a valid point. A new office, even at the highest level, is not legislation. It remains to be seen how much influence and authority it will wield to combat what Biden called the “ultimate superstorm.”
We hope the office can be aggressive in pushing to protect Americans from the hail of bullets that keep showering our states, cities, towns and homes.
“We cannot normalize any of this,” as Vice President Harris said.
Sadly, many people have become desensitized. But it’s never too late to turn that reality around.
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