By: Caroline Multerer

What is the kernel of the issue?

For too long, officials across the US government have refused to identify the gun violence epidemic as what it really is: a national security crisis.

Why is the issue important?

It’s getting worse. Gun violence deaths rose in 2020 to 19,379 (not to mention the 24,156 gun-related suicides in the same year). Mass shootings went up to 610 in 2020 from 417 in 2019. Globally, the United States has a firearm homicide rate that is 25 times higher than 22 other high-income nations. And Black Americans are disproportionately affected: They experience “nearly 10 times the gun homicides and 15 times the gun assaults.” Thousands more Americans will die if this epidemic is not addressed, and the United States will become an increasingly insecure nation.

What is the recommendation?

The Biden administration should create an Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—either in the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Science and Technology Directorate—to fund analysis and recommend policy options on effective steps to speedily reduce gun violence. The office also would work closely with DHS’s National Vetting Center to ensure DHS’ databases have relevant data when other government bodies—such as the National Instant Crime Background Check System within the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)—conduct background checks. The office would support the administration’s recently proposed gun violence prevention efforts. The manifold benefits would include 1) allowing DHS to realign its organization to reflect a pressing current threat to homeland security; 2) recognizing gun violence as a national security crisis and prevention as a priority; and 3) creating a funded and sustained effort to reduce gun deaths over time.