One of Kamala Harris’ more forceful platforms as a presidential candidate was to enact stricter gun control measures, and it’s a platform that she might continue to promote as a vice presidential candidate.
“We’re not waiting for good ideas – we have good ideas. We’re not waiting for another tragedy – we have seen the worst human tragedies we can imagine. What’s missing is politicians in Washington having the courage to stand up to the [National Rifle Association],” she wrote on a now-cached page of her campaign website.
On Tuesday, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, tapped Harris as his running mate. And while stricter gun control measures have at times been a major part of Harris’ campaign platforms, the issue was barely raised at the Wednesday press conference that served as the ticket’s first public appearance together. During roughly 45 minutes of remarks from Biden and Harris, each candidate only uttered the word “gun” once.
But on the campaign trail and in debates, Harris said she would demand for Congress to send her a bill to tighten gun regulations in her first 100 days, or she would take executive action. Specifically, she has advocated for:
- Implementing universal background checks
- Banning semi-automatic rifles, or so-called assault weapons
- Repealing the NRA’s corporate gun manufacturer immunity shield, aka PLCAA
- The most comprehensive federal background checks in history
- Revoking the licenses of gun manufacturers that break the law
- Closing the “boyfriend loophole” to make it harder for domestic abusers to purchase guns
- Reversing President Donald Trump’s decision to allow fugitives from justice to purchase guns
- Banning importation of AR-15 style assault weapons
- Criminalizing gun trafficking at the federal level
- Banning high-capacity magazines
- Prohibiting those convicted of a federal hate crime from buying guns
After Biden announced Harris as his running mate, gun rights activists quickly criticized the pick. In a tweet, the NRA wrote that Harris had “extreme gun control agendas” and that “Biden & Harris will dismantle the 2nd Amendment.” Firearms Policy Coalition tweeted, “Kamala Harris, while serving as AG in California, was the architect of many of CA’s anti-2A laws and regulations.”
Biden Chooses 2nd Amendment-Hating @KamalaHarris as his VP
Harris’s presidential campaign died soon after announcing extreme gun control agendas. Her plan was to ignore democratic processes & enact gun control by executive order.
Biden & Harris will dismantle the 2nd Amendment.
— NRA (@NRA) August 11, 2020
Conversely, supporters of stricter gun regulation cheered the selection. Everytown for Gun Safety called Biden-Harris “the strongest gun safety ticket in American history.” And Moms Demand Action called Harris a “passionate advocate for gun safety and has co-sponsored a long list of gun safety legislation as a U.S. senator.”
Everytown-endorsed @JoeBiden has chosen Senator @KamalaHarris as his vice presidential running mate! With these two gun sense champions on the ticket, it’s clear that gun violence prevention is a central issue in this election. pic.twitter.com/uimJpB3drd
— Everytown (@Everytown) August 12, 2020
Of course, even if elected, it could prove difficult for Biden and Harris to enact many of these policies — and would depend heavily on how elections for Congress shake out. For years, President Barack Obama lobbied for stricter gun control measures, especially following mass shootings like in Newtown, Connecticut, and San Bernardino, California. However, Congress passed only two pieces of gun-related legislation for him to sign, and Obama has lamented that he wasn’t able to make strides in that area.
Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.