Kamala Harris tasked with new role fighting U.S. gun violence

"After every mass shooting, we hear a simple message, the same message all over the country," she added

September 23, 2023 09:41 pm | Updated 09:41 pm IST - Washington

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during an event about gun safety on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during an event about gun safety on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. | Photo Credit: AP

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris took on a new role Friday fighting gun violence, a job likely to give her more visibility ahead of the 2024 election.

The 58-year-old Democrat will head up the new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which will provide coordination on the issue but largely lacks any kind of enforceable power to tackle the scourge in a country that has more firearms than people.

"We know true freedom is not possible if people are not safe," Ms. Harris said in a statement announcing the new office.

"We do not have a moment to spare nor a life to spare" while the United States is "torn apart" by gun violence, she said at the White House on Friday.

Listen to our podcast | Understanding the U.S.’s gun violence epidemic

"After every mass shooting, we hear a simple message, the same message all over the country," she added, saying Americans are begging for their leaders to "do something, please do something."

Despite the new push, the White House does not have unilateral power to meaningfully limit gun use in the United States, such as by banning assault weapons.

Any substantial moves would have to come from Congress, where fiercely anti-gun regulation Republicans control the House of Representatives.

Mr. Biden has therefore tried to work around legislative requirements and imposed certain regulatory and administrative restrictions, which have only a limited scope.

The new role adds a significant job to Harris's portfolio just a little over a year ahead of the 2024 race, in which she and the 80-year-old president are facing re-election.

The vice president has already been tasked with handling other politically sensitive issues such as immigration.

Tackling gun violence gives the former California prosecutor the chance to work on a visible issue that often garners more widespread consensus from the American public.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-governmental organization, 44,374 people were killed by guns across the United States last year.

Gun deaths have slowed slightly this year, at 28,793 for the first eight months, according to the archive.

Ms. Harris – the first woman to become vice president as well as the first Black person and person of South Asian descent to hold the job – also recently embarked on the so-called Fight for Our Freedoms College Tour, in which she visited several US universities.

She was generally received with enthusiasm, in contrast to her often-flagging favorability poll numbers.

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