On January 28, California senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris was in Iowa taking questions from prospective voters as part of a televised town hall. Harris positioned herself as a staunch progressive, presenting policies like Medicare for all, paid maternal leave, and better protections for the DREAMers. Harris also talked about her views on gun control, garnering rousing applause from the audience as she said that lawmakers had “failed to act” on implementing gun safety legislation.
Kamala Harris is a strong advocate for gun control and believes in imposing restrictions on the right to bear arms. But the California senator, who got her start as a tough-on-crime prosecutor, also says that she believes in the second amendment. Here’s what you need to know about Kamala Harris and gun control:
1. Harris Said Lawmakers Should Have Been Forced to Look at Photos of Sandy Hook Victims Before They Voted on Gun Safety Laws
At a town hall in Des Moines on January 28, Kamala Harris laid out what she said was a “harsh” view on gun control. In response to a question from an audience member, Harris said, “We have got to have smart gun safety laws in this country. And we’ve got to stop buying this false choice. You can be in favor of the second amendment, and also understand that there is no reason in a civil society that we have assault weapons around communities that can kill babies and police officers.”
Harris also slammed members of Congress who, she said, had “failed to act” to enact gun safety laws even after tragedies like the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, or the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012. (Both of these tragedies took place before Harris joined the Senate in 2016.)
“Twenty six- and seven-year-old babies were massacred in Connecticut,” Harris said, referring to the Sandy Hook shooting. She added, “Here’s what I think. I think that somebody should have required — and this is going to sound very harsh — I think somebody should have required all those members of Congress to go in a locked room — no press, no one else — and look at the autopsy photographs of those babies. And then you vote your conscience. This has become a political issue.”
2. California Gun Dealers Sued Harris Over Her ‘Anti-Handgun’ Policies While She Was Attorney General of California
In 2014, when Kamala Harris was the Attorney General of California, four gun dealers filed a lawsuit arguing that the state of California’s handgun enforcement policy was “contrary to the plain language” of the law.” The lawsuit was supported by a number of gun-rights groups, including the Second Amendment Foundation, the Calguns Foundation and California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees.
The plaintiffs in the case were four gun dealers: Tracy Rifle and Pistol, owned by Michael Baryla; Ten Percent Firearms, owned by Wesley Morris; Sacramento Black Rifle, Inc., owned by Robert Adams, and PRK Arms, Inc., owned by Jeffrey Mullen. The lawsuit charged that the California Penal Code violated the First Amendment rights of the plaintiffs by preventing them from displaying images of handguns or even the word “handguns” where they would be visible to passersby. “By prohibiting firearms dealers from displaying on-site handgun advertisements, Section 26820 violates the right of firearms dealers to disseminate truthful, non-misleading commercial information about a lawful, constitutionally protected product,” the lawsuit charged.
3. The NRA Gave Harris a 7 Percent Approval Rating
Kamala Harris says that she believes in the second amendment, but that she believes in restricting the right to bear arms. The California senator is vocal about her view that there should be a ban on assault weapons and mandatory background checks on anyone who seeks to buy a gun. She has also sharply criticized members of Congress who are backed by the NRA. In 2018, Harris sent en email to her backers urging them to support Democrats who were running to unseat Republicans supported by the NRA.
Harris has earned only a 7 percent rating from the NRA.
4. Harris Wants a Ban on All Assault Weapons
As a senator, Harris has backed legislation to restore the federal ban on “military style assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Harris has repeated, often, that she is against assault weapons, saying, in a town hall on January 28, You can be in favor of the second amendment, and also understand that there is no reason in a civil society that we have assault weapons around communities that can kill babies and police officers.”
Kamala Harris’s home state of California has some of the toughest gun control laws in the United States, and was one of the first states to introduce a ban on assault weapons, back in 1989.
5. Harris Says She Has Friends Who ‘Love to Hunt’
Kamala Harris strongly backs a federal ban on assault weapons. She has argued that assault weapons are “weapons or war” and that they aren’t needed for ordinary purposes like hunting. Harris has written about this extensively on social media as well. The California senator often writes, “I have friends that love to hunt — but if you need an assault weapon to go hunting, you need to go back to hunting school.”