White House announces new office to prevent gun violence, Tucson is already ahead of that curve

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 8:45 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - President Joe Biden has become the first president to open an Office for Gun Violence Prevention.

It will be led by Vice President Kamala Harris, who led gun safety efforts when she was Attorney General in California.

During his remarks from the White House Rose Garden, the President alluded to the fact there have been more than 500 mass shootings in the US this year and 30,000 gun-related deaths.

“We all want our kids to have the freedom to learn how to read and write instead of duck and cover, for God’s sake,” Mr. Biden said, announcing the new office.

Tucson is well ahead of much of the nation in preventing gun violence. Two years ago, it targeted three neighborhoods in Tucson with the worst gun violence, including South Campbell, Grant and Alvernon and East 22nd Street.

Those communities have reported a 70% to 80% drop in gun crime.

There were 93 murders in Tucson in 2021, but only 40 so far this year.

“Nowhere is safe and we should not accept it as something that is normal,” said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. “At the movie theaters, grocery stores, schools, shopping malls, we should not have to live with the fear of this violence.”

The reduced violence program in neighborhoods, PNI or Place Network Investigations, is totally data-driven and does not depend solely on police.

“TPD can do the investigation and the arrests, but the long-term work is done by housing and development, by community health and wellness and other departments, and the community itself,” Romero said.

Critics of the president’s gun violence office say it is a nonstarter.

“It’s horrible,” said radio talk show host Charles Heller. “Limiting the capacity of magazines does nothing to stop violence, having everybody to have a background check is a fraud, and increasing the liability of manufacturers is just a way of running the gun industry out of business.”

But supporters of the new office to reduce gun violence say the goal is to make communities safer and reduce the number of people killed by guns, not to take away rights.

For the city, a new federal office cuts one big layer of bureaucracy.

“Being able to have that connection directly to the White House when we have concerns is going to be invaluable to us,” Romero said. “I’m very happy that we’re going to be able to pick up the phone and ask for the help that we need.”

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