Democratic U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse and Lucy McBath on Friday urged President Joe Biden to appoint a national director of gun violence prevention charged with cutting firearms casualties in half over the next decade.
In a letter also signed by 34 of their Democratic colleagues, the lawmakers asked Biden to create a task force headed by the new position to coordinate efforts to combat what they call "a persistent and growing gun violence problem," which they say are currently segregated across federal agencies.
“If we are not doing everything we can to ensure another Columbine, another Aurora, another Highlands Ranch, does not happen again, then we are not doing enough," said Neguse, a Lafayette Democrat, in a statement, referencing mass shootings in Colorado.
McBath, the Georgia Democrat whose 17-year-old son was killed in a 2012 shooting, said in a statement that it's time for the federal government to take a comprehensive approach.
“To end gun violence, we need many voices at the table: survivors, public health experts, community leaders, law enforcement, and people from all walks of life,” she said.
"By establishing an interagency task force, the administration can be sure we are looking at gun violence prevention from every angle as we work together to save American lives.”
The letter paints a grim picture of a mounting toll.
"Every year, nearly 40,000 people are killed with guns in our nation and another 76,000 are injured, with disproportionate shares of this violence falling on communities of color," the lawmakers said.
"In 2020 alone, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, at least 43,561 people needlessly lost their lives due to gun violence, a 10% increase from 2019. As gun ownership soars to record levels , we fear that this violence will only continue to grow."
U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette of Denver and Jason Crow of Aurora were among the House Democrats who signed the letter.
Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, the freshman Republican who owns a firearms-themed restaurant in Rifle and has vowed to carry a gun in Washington, D.C., said in a tweet that she remains steadfast in her opposition to gun control measures.
"You give an inch, they change your life," she said, referring to then-President Donald Trump's initial exhortations to spend 15 days to "slow the spread" of the coronavirus a year ago.
"This is EXACTLY why I’ll never give the federal government an INCH on the Second Amendment. No compromise is ever enough to satisfy," Boebert said.
Federal programs — including research on gun violence and law enforcement activities — are spread across numerous agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco, Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Neguse and his colleagues wrote.
"We ask that this Director work with — and directly report —to you and set forth the goal of reducing firearms deaths and injuries by at least 50% over the next ten years," the letter reads.
Earlier this month, Biden marked the third anniversary of the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, with a statement pledging his administration "will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call," referring to the gun control movement organized by the school's students and others.
"Today, I am calling on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets," Biden said.
"We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now."
The White House press office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawmakers' letter.