Kamala Harris for the People
April 23, 2019

Kamala Harris To Take Bold Executive Actions to Combat Gun Violence As President

Senator Kamala Harris announced last night at a CNN town hall that, as President, she would take bold executive actions to combat gun violence if Congress fails to pass comprehensive gun safety legislation in her first 100 days in office.

“We need reasonable gun safety laws in this country, starting with universal background checks and a renewal of the assault weapons ban. But Congress has failed to have the courage to act,” she said. “Upon being elected, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws. And if they fail to do it, then I will take executive action.”

Harris has laid out her support for renewing the assault weapons ban, passing universal background checks legislation, banning high capacity magazines, prohibiting those convicted of a federal hate crime from purchasing guns, and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

But if Congress refuses to act, she will take four bold executive actions to expand background checks, crack down on gun manufacturers and dealers who break the law, prevent guns from getting into the hands of suspected criminals, and stop domestic abusers from obtaining weapons. These are the most aggressive executive actions proposed on this issue by any candidate in any presidential election.

The executive actions would:

  • Mandate near-universal background checks by requiring anyone who sells five or more guns per year to run a background check on all gun sales. An estimated 1 in 5 gun purchases in America occur without a background check. This is because under federal law, only “gun dealers” are required to perform background checks, and the definition of “gun dealer” has been up for debate. Harris would direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to promulgate a regulation defining what “gun dealer” means -- if you sell
    five or more guns for profit a year, you will be considered a “dealer” and required to perform background checks.

  • Revoke the licenses of gun manufacturers and dealers that break the law, and take the most egregious offenders to court—regardless of whether they’re protected by the
    dangerous Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). In 2005, after extensive lobbying by the NRA, Congress passed PLCAA, which prevents victims of gun violence from holding law-breaking gun manufacturers and dealers accountable. But PLCAA can’t prevent the
    federal government from acting. If Congress fails to repeal PLCAA within her first 100 days as President, Harris will direct ATF to revoke federal licenses of gun makers and dealers that willfully violate the law. That would include conduct PLCAA often protects, such as violating negligence laws by selling a gun to a straw purchaser, violating public nuisance laws by supplying dealers that consistently sell guns used in crimes, or violating unfair business practices statutes by marketing assault weapons to children in video games. She’ll also go further by taking the most egregious actors to court for criminal liability -- and she’ll use any fines paid by law-breaking gun corporations to expand access to mental health treatment, trauma informed care, and community-based violence intervention programs.

  • Reverse President Trump’s dangerous change to the definition of “fugitive from justice,” which has allowed thousands of fugitives with outstanding arrest warrants to buy guns.
    In February 2017, the Trump Administration quietly narrowed this definition for purposes of
    determining when a person is prohibited from buying a gun. Now, a gun sale is not denied to a fugitive unless it can be shown an individual fled a state “for the purpose” of avoiding charges. Proving a person’s state of mind is incredibly difficult, particularly given a background check must be completed within three days. In the year following the change, the number of gun sales blocked by the “fugitive from justice” prohibition dropped by roughly 65%, according to our analysis. She will reverse the change to prevent those with outstanding warrants from
    purchasing guns.

  • Close the “boyfriend loophole” to prevent dating partners convicted of domestic violence from purchasing guns. Women in America are 21 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries, and while federal law prohibits abusers convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from purchasing guns, the prohibition does not always apply where an abuser is a dating partner. Yet nearly half of all intimate partner
    homicides are committed by a dating partner and nearly 1 million women in the U.S. alive
    today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. Harris would direct ATF to issue a regulation that convicted domestic abusers should not be able to buy guns just because they’re not married to the person they abused.

As a career law enforcement officer in California, Harris had a long record of making progress on common sense gun safety reform -- from calling in 2004 for the renewal of the federal assault weapons ban and supporting legislation to require microstamping technology for guns as District Attorney, to convening D.A.s and local law enforcement to combat gun violence and successfully defending California’s ten-day waiting period as Attorney General.

Gun violence prevention advocates are praising Harris’ proposal. “What Kamala Harris is rolling out on gun safety is detailed, thoughtful, and bold,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords. “2020 Dems are remarkably aligned on guns, but Kamala is clearly positioning herself as a leader on the issue,” adding that it is a “powerful signal about her commitment to gun safety.” Chelsea Parsons, the vice president for gun violence prevention policy at the Center for American Progress, called it a “smart plan.” “People are fed up with the inaction on this issue. They want it done already,” added Kris Brown, the president of Brady, adding that Harris is “bypassing the stranglehold that a tiny minority of [Congress] members can exert to stop action on a measure that almost every American think is a good idea.”

Read more about her plan to tackle gun violence via executive action at kamalaharris.org/gunviolence.