Kamala Harris wants Congress to act on gun violence : A look at her troubled history with the NRA

From her days as the attorney general of California to the presidential campaign, the Democrat has always been vocal against gun violence that has rocked America's civil society


                            Kamala Harris wants Congress to act on gun violence : A look at her troubled history with the NRA
Vice President Kamala Harris has shown a consistently strong stand against gun violence (Getty Images)

The Joe Biden-Kamala Harris presidency witnessed its first gun crime in March and two back-to-back incidents inside a week have rocked the administration and put the top leadership, which has been vowing for gun reforms, under a big challenge to walk its talk. 

On Wednesday, March 24, Vice President Harris spoke on the critical issue in the wake of the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, where 10 were killed and said President Biden is hesitating to take executive action on gun control because the White House wants the Congress to unite and take an action in a more ‘permanent’ capacity following the mass shooting incidents in Georgia and Colorado. The first woman veep also took a dig at the Republicans, saying they were forwarding a kind of “false choice” that any legislative action on firearms would deny the people of the US their 2nd Amendment rights. Speaking on CBS’ ‘This Morning’ in a remote interview, Harris said: “We should first expect the United States Congress to act” when asked if Biden is prepared to take executive action on the sensitive matter.



 

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“I’'m not willing to give up on what we must do to appeal to the hearts and minds and the reason of the members of the United States Senate. I served in that body, and I believe that it is possible, it has to be possible that people agree that these slaughters have to stop,” she added. 

Biden has also shown a strong intent to take on the problem head-on and the White House is reportedly mulling executive orders besides legislative proposals to address gun violence that takes several lives in the country each year. Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that Biden is “not waiting for anything to fail” in the Congress. “What our team is looking at now is what is the range of legislation out now and whether there are policy gaps that need to be filled or can be revisited,” she said.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (Getty Images)

However, while the Democrat-controlled House has already passed legislation to make background checks stricter, the blue party will not find it as easy when it comes to the evenly split upper chamber. Harris asserted that having reasonable gun safety laws means to deprive the common Americans of their 2nd Amendment rights. She said there is no reason why the streets of a civil society have so many assault weapons, the weapons of war that can kill a lot of people quickly. 

It will be relevant here to look at Harris’s historical stance on gun violence. The president’s position on the issue has transformed over the decades (from pro- to anti-gun). What has been Harris’s story?

Harris was one of the most vocal proponents of gun reforms during her short presidential run for the 2020 election. The former California senator had announced during campaigning that she would sign an executive order “mandating background checks for customers of any firearms dealer who sells more than five guns a year” if the Congress failed to take action within the first 100 days after her coming to power. She also warned that she aimed to close the ‘boyfriend loophole’ and put a ban on assault weapons and stop fugitives from buying handguns or weapons. 

The 56-year-old leader was always consistent on her stance on gun control. She has also said in the past that the citizens would continue to keep their Second Amendment rights even if a gun-control legislation is passed to save millions of lives. Four months after making the remark on passing executive order on gun control in April 2019, Harris, who owns a gun herself, yet again laid out her plans on gun control if she were elected as the president. In August, Harris said that she eyed revoking licenses of gun manufacturers and dealers who breach the law, asking anyone selling more than five guns a year to run a background check on all the sales and banning import of AR-15-style assault weapons. 

Kamala Harris and NRA

Harris was criticized by the National Rifle Association (NRA) over her anti-gun ideas with the latter calling her proposed reform on guns “ridiculous”. Mocking her ideas of mandating background checks and renewing assault weapons ban, the NRA tweeted in August 2019 to say: “Big surprise: Kamala Harris is anti-gun. What she doesn't seem to realize is that most of her gun control policies either wouldn't work, or are already law, or basically make no sense.” The tweet included an NRA article with the title: ‘Kamala Harris and Her Perplexing Anti-Gun Ideas’ in which the politician was accused of appeasing “anti-gun extremists” who tried to lead the Democrats towards “eviscerating the Second Amendment”. 



 


Harris was undeterred and in response to the attack, her presidential campaign sent a fundraising email seeking supporters’ help her inch forward. The NRA was vocal once again last August when Biden picked Harris as his running mate. In another tweet, it said: “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.”



 

 

But Harris also had her supporters. Hours after she was officially nominated as the vice presidential candidate, anti-gun nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety told its subscribers that chances were on for Americans to get their “strongest president and vice president for gun safety in American history”. 

Harris’s anti-gun campaign in California

Harris’s strong stance on gun control is not something new. Just months after she took over the attorney general of California, Harris announced results of a statewide campaign against guns in which more than 1,200 weapons were seized from individuals who were legally disallowed to possess them, including those who are mentally unstable and active restraining orders. The sweep saw thrice the number of firearms seized compared to the drive in 2007 when the previous such drive was held. “Seizing guns from felons, gang members and other prohibited persons is the kind of smart, proactive law enforcement that makes a difference in the everyday lives of Californians. We are all safer thanks to the sworn officers who carried out this sweep and I am committed to strengthening this program,” Harris had said then.

Robin Lloyd, managing director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco-based nonprofit center that keeps a track on gun legislation, recently praised Harris’s stance on gun control as a California prosecutor and the state’s attorney general, The Progressive reported in February. Former Democratic lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords, a gun control advocate who survived an assassination attempt just days after Harris took over the California AG, has also backed the veep’s consistent position on taking on the gun lobby. 

With tears running down his cheeks, former president Barack Obama talks about the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and about his efforts to increase federal gun control in the East Room of the White House January 5, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

 

“Senator Kamala Harris has never held back from taking on the gun lobby and fighting for policies that save lives,” The Progressive quoted the Arizona Democrat as saying . Giffords also called Harris a “fierce, compassionate, and strong leader who is willing to fight for progress.”

Harris though has no shortage of energy to take on gun violence, she also needs to remind the fact that Biden was unsuccessful to put a strict control on guns during his vice presidential stint in the Barack Obama presidency for eight long years. While Obama put him in charge of the battle citing his long record in fighting gun violence, Biden yet failed to rally enough support for tighter restrictions on weapons after the massacre of little schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.