Kamala Harris Vows to Impose New Gun Limits by Executive Action

Sahil Kapur

(Bloomberg) -- Senator Kamala Harris vowed to use executive actions to tighten rules on firearms sales if she’s elected president and Congress fails to act on gun control in her first 100 days in office.

The California Democrat’s proposals to bypass Congress with actions that include expanding requirements for background checks and revoking licenses for gun manufactures and dealers found to have broken the law would almost certainly face legal challenges. But they represent her attempt to lean into a cause that has gained strong support in the Democratic Party following a wave of mass shootings over the past several years.

"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 said Monday night at a town hall event hosted by CNN in New Hampshire, site of the first primary in the 2020 nomination contest.

Harris would use executive power to require anyone who sells five or more guns per year to conduct a background check on all sales. The move would be aimed at closing a loophole in federal law that allows private sellers to transfer guns without such checks, according to a proposal released by her campaign.

Closing Loopholes

Her plan would also close the so-called boyfriend loophole by banning gun purchases for dating partners convicted of domestic violence and bar people with outstanding arrest warrants from obtaining guns.

Harris polls among the top four of a Democratic presidential field that reached 19 contenders on Monday. She trails former Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn’t yet announced his plans, and Senator Bernie Sanders, the 2016 runner-up, in most surveys.

Her gun policy blueprint includes legislative proposals to require universal background checks, reinstate an “assault weapons” ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004, ban high-capacity ammunition clips, make gun trafficking a federal offense and ban people convicted of a federal hate crime from buying a firearm.

She’d also repeal the Protection of Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 law that shields gun makers and sellers from liability if their weapons are used for criminal purposes.

Democratic attempts to tighten gun laws after the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school were stymied by strong opposition from Republicans and the National Rifle Association, the most prominent gun-rights lobby. President Donald Trump has rejected expanding gun control laws, rendering the cause all but dead during his presidency.

The Harris campaign acknowledged that her proposed executive actions would likely face court challenges but argues that the legal definitions it is seeking to change are open to interpretation.

Michael Bloomberg, owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, founded and helps fund Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sahil Kapur in Washington at skapur39@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Max Berley

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