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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt community optimistic, hesitant about new national Office of Gun Violence Prevention

The Office’s goals include lobbying Congress for stricter background checks and prosecuting firearms traffickers.
Claire Gatlin
Students protest outside the Tennessee state house in downtown Nashville. (Hustler Multimedia/Claire Gatlin)

President Joe Biden announced the creation of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention on Sept. 22, which will be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris. Vanderbilt community members expressed hesitation but optimism at the news.

This move comes in the wake of a rise in mass shootings and gun violence, with a 23% increase in total gun deaths from 2019 to 2021. In an official statement, Biden stressed the importance of keeping Americans safe. He also elaborated on steps the office plans to take in the fight against gun violence, including curbing the sales of guns without background checks and implementing safe storage of firearms. Biden added that the office will work to pressure Congress to act on implementing mandatory background checks and pursue an avenue of increased safety measures. 

Youth-led organizations, such as March For Our Lives and Students Demand Action, have been heavily involved in the movement against gun violence. Following the March shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Vanderbilt’s chapter of Students Demand Action and March For Our Lives organizers staged student walkouts, rallies and protests. Senior Brynn Jones said the new office is “the direct result” of March for Our Lives lobbying. Jones has served as an Advocacy Judicial Associate for March for Our Lives for about a year and a half and described the new office as a “step in the right direction.”

“It is a sign of the depth of the gun violence crisis in the nation and the impacts of youth activism, which we experienced and led here last fall,” Jones said. “The office can pay particular attention to the cost of gun violence that is especially born by young Americans as the No. 1 killer of children and young adults in this country and the ways that gun manufacturers intentionally fuel this crisis.” 

Sophomore Lena Kalandijan has worked extensively with Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit organization with a mission to end school shootings. She expressed similar sentiments as Jones about the new office.

“While long overdue, this [office] is absolutely a step in the right direction toward achieving comprehensive solutions for gun violence prevention,” Kalandijan said. “This initiative will provide the countless organizations who have been working to prevent gun violence for decades with the attention and support they deserve from our legislators.”  

Zach Maaieh, co-founder of the Vanderbilt chapter of Students Demand Action and former SDA National Advisory Board member, said the office establishes a path of “optimism” and “purpose.”

“After countless heartbreaks from gun violence, the creation of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention by the Biden-Harris Administration is a beacon of hope. With leaders like Rob Wilcox and Greg Jackson at the helm, our collective voices are finally being recognized,” Maaieh said. “This step is a testament to our unwavering advocacy for safety. Our struggles have not been in vain, and our voices resonate stronger than ever.”

John Sides, professor of political science, expressed hesitation about the effectiveness of the office. 

“I think the challenge for Biden is that this office will not be able to change existing law,” Sides said. “It may be able to promote some initiatives or prod Congress to take action, but the types of gun violence policies that Biden would favor will ultimately require a House majority and a Senate supermajority. That will be tough to achieve.” 

The U. S. House of Representatives currently has a slim Republican majority, with 221 Republican and 212 Democratic seats. In the Senate, Democrats currently hold 47 seats with three independents voting with them. Democrats will gain one seat after California Governor Gavin Newsom’s appointment of Laphonza Butler to former Senator Diane Feinstein’s seat. 

Senior Chase Mandell, president of Vanderbilt College Democrats, said he hopes for “proactive actions to combat gun violence through executive and legislative means” 

“We urge lawmakers to implement universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, and other common-sense gun reform,” Mandell said. 

Vanderbilt College Republicans did not respond to The Hustler’s request for comment.

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About the Contributors
Danni Chacon
Danni Chacon, Staff Writer
Danni Chacon ('25) is from Orlando, Fla., and is majoring in political science and Latin America studies in the College of Arts and Science. In her free time, she enjoys doing outdoor activities, such as running, swimming and hiking. You can reach her at [email protected].
Lexi Abrams
Lexi Abrams, Staff Writer
Lexi Abrams (‘25) is majoring in political science and minoring in French and gender and sexuality studies in the College of Arts and Science. Outside of The Hustler, you can find her making Spotify playlists, going on a run or drinking tea. She can be reached at [email protected].
Claire Gatlin
Claire Gatlin, Former Life Editor
Claire Gatlin ('24) is a student in Peabody College studying human and organizational development and political science. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts, reading and rollerblading. You can reach her at [email protected].
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