Ambassador Susan E. Rice Video Remarks Accepting Everytown’s Federal Gun Sense Lawmaker of the Year Award
As Prepared For Delivery:
Thank you, John, for that introduction and for your leadership. And, thank you, Shannon, for the remarkable grassroots effort you’ve mobilized. As I said when I joined you for a virtual conversation last summer, the work you’re doing is saving so many lives.
I’m especially grateful to the survivors among you. Thank you for using your voices to curb gun violence in America. My heart is with you and your families and communities.
The fact that we’re together virtually underscores that we continue to live through two converging public health crises—one that makes headlines every day, one that is too often overlooked. But, when the return to school brings the return of school shootings—from Arkansas to Idaho—that’s not something we can ignore. When gun assaults rise eight percent in large cities, and a six-year-old girl on a scooter is shot and killed just miles from the White House, we can’t look away. When firearms are the leading cause of death among young people—and 14 times higher for Black youth—that demands our attention and our action.
So, even as the Biden-Harris Administration focuses relentlessly on defeating this pandemic and building back better, addressing the epidemic of gun violence remains a critical priority at the highest levels of our government. That means working to prevent all forms of gun violence. Community violence. Mass shootings. Domestic violence. Suicide. All of it.
As the President’s Domestic Policy Advisor, I have the great privilege and responsibility of coordinating many of those efforts. I’m deeply honored to accept this gun sense award on behalf of President Biden and his entire Administration. And, I accept it less as a symbol of our achievement than as a reminder of all the work that still must be done.
President Biden has been very clear that our job is to “give meaning to the word ‘enough.’’ Republicans in Congress may not have gotten the message yet, but we’re not waiting. Last week, we passed the 200-day mark of this Administration. And, I’m proud that we’ve already taken decisive action to make “enough” mean something.
In April, the President announced a series of key steps to rein in gun violence. With these new regulations, we’re tightening restrictions on so-called “ghost guns,” which are increasingly being used in crimes. We’re working to better regulate arm braces that effectively turn pistols into short-barreled rifles. The Department of Justice has also issued model extreme risk protection order legislation to facilitate states adopting these laws themselves.
President Biden followed up on those actions with a comprehensive strategy to combat gun crime and promote public safety. As the first part of this strategy, we’re laser-focused on stemming the flow of firearms used to commit violence. With studies showing that 90 percent of illegal guns found at crime scenes are sold by just 5 percent of gun dealers, the Department of Justice has announced a zero-tolerance policy for rogue gun dealers. Absent extraordinary circumstances, if a dealer willfully violates certain federal laws, their license will be revoked the first time. Full stop.
DOJ has also launched strike forces targeting five major gun trafficking corridors. And, just last week, I co-hosted a meeting with state attorneys general to strategize on creative ways to hold gun dealers and manufacturers responsible for wrongful conduct.
In addition, we’re supporting state and local law enforcement with a range of tools and resources to help address gun crime. That includes encouraging them to use some of the $350 billion they received from the American Rescue Plan to hire more police officers and advance community policing; to expand mental health and substance use disorder services; to offer job training and summer educational programs for young people; and to increase investments in community violence interventions.
Here in D.C., I’ve seen firsthand the value of community violence interventions, which can reduce violence by as much as 60 percent. To pilot and scale these critical interventions, we’ve launched a CVI Collaborative of 16 cities, from Baton Rouge to Baltimore. And, we’ve facilitated states like Connecticut devoting Medicaid resources to violence intervention programs.
We’re also helping formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities with housing, job training, and other support.
That’s the Biden-Harris agenda. Not just “thoughts and prayers,” but enforcement and action.
But, when more than 100 Americans die from gun violence every day, we cannot take our foot off the gas.
We need to pass the President’s budget, which would double funding for gun violence research at the CDC and the National Institutes of Health. Our budget would also provide federal law enforcement badly-needed money to combat gun crimes—and more than double the Department of Justice’s COPS program, which supports community policing.
I’m particularly excited that the President’s Build Back Better Agenda includes a historic $5 billion for CVI efforts. More broadly, this agenda will address many of the root causes of gun violence. Lifting children out of poverty. Ensuring universal pre-K. Investing in workforce development. Providing free community college, expanded Pell grants, and support to HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.
Finally, the President continues to urge Congress to enact common-sense gun safety laws. Requiring background checks for all gun sales. Closing the “Charleston” and “boyfriend” loopholes. Banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Repealing gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. Passing a national extreme risk protection law. We’re grateful that the House passed three pieces of bipartisan legislation to strengthen background checks, and it’s past time Senate Republicans listened to the overwhelming majority of Americans instead of the gun lobby.
It won’t be easy. But, we have a President who has taken on the NRA twice—and won. We have steadfast allies in Congress, including Members like Lucy McBath and Jackie Speier who’ve personally experienced the pain of gun violence.
Most of all, we have you. I remember a few years ago, as a private citizen, attending the March For Our Lives in Washington. I marched with my then-15-year-old daughter, and husband, and many thousands of fellow Americans. There were chants of “Vote them out!” There were the signs saying, “I go to school to get A’s, not PTSD.” There were a whole lot of moms demanding action. The energy, the outrage—the determination—was palpable.
That, more than anything, is what gives me hope. With your activism and your leadership, we can combat this senseless violence. We can make our kids and our communities safer. And, we can fulfill the promise of a better future for us all.
Thank you again for this extraordinary honor.