Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democratic candidate for president, has not called for Americans to “surrender” their guns, as social media posts wrongly assert.
At a CNN town hall in April, California Sen. Kamala Harris said that, if elected president, she’d use executive powers to implement gun control policies — if Congress did not pass “reasonable gun safety laws” within her first 100 days in office.
The Democratic candidate outlined her proposal, too, but she did not call for citizens to “surrender your guns,” as posts circulating on Facebook claim.
“If elected & you don’t surrender your guns, I will sign an executive order & the police will show up at your door – Kamala Harris,” the false posts read.
We could not find any evidence of Harris ever making that statement or advocating for such a move. The fabricated quote is also inconsistent with what she has said publicly.
In fact, Harris, during the town hall, lamented “supposed leaders” for failing “to reject a false choice which suggests you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.”
Harris continued her criticism of lawmakers “who have failed to have the courage to recognize …. we need reasonable gun safety laws in this country, starting with universal background checks and a renewal of the assault weapons ban.”
She then offered more specifics on her executive action plan, which align with the goals outlined on her campaign website.
“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,” she said. “And if they fail to do it, then I will take executive action.”
Harris spoke of requiring those who sell more than five guns annually to do background checks during those transactions, and requiring the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to revoke the licenses of gun dealers who break the law.
Lastly, she said she would prevent fugitives from being able to buy guns.
“Part of what has happened under the current administration is they took fugitives off the list of prohibited people,” she said. “I’d put them back on the list, meaning that fugitives from justice should not be able to purchase a handgun or any kind of weapon.”
We should note that there’s missing context from Harris’ claim about fugitives — although some of it is included on her website.
As Harris noted on her website, the Trump administration in February 2017 “narrowed the definition of ‘fugitive from justice’ for purposes of determining when a person is prohibited from buying a gun.”
The definition now says that the “mere existence of an outstanding arrest warrant” is not enough to deny the purchase. The Justice Department’s new policy applies the “fugitive from justice” prohibitor only to individuals who fled their state to “avoid prosecution for a crime or to avoid giving testimony in a criminal proceeding,” and who are “subject to a current or imminent criminal prosecution or testimonial obligation.”
However, disagreement between the FBI and the ATF over the term dates back years, according to a 2016 report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, which advised the issue “be addressed as soon as possible.”
In November 2017, the Washington Post reported that, before Trump took office, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel “sided with ATF and narrowed the definition of fugitives” and said that gun purchases should only be denied to fugitives who crossed state lines. “After Trump was inaugurated,” the Post continued, “the Justice Department further narrowed the definition to those who have fled across state lines to avoid prosecution for a crime or to avoid giving testimony in a criminal proceeding.”
“CNN Hosts a Town Hall with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) Presidential Candidate.” Transcript. CNN. 23 Apr 2019.
“Action on Gun Violence in Kamala Harris’ First 100 Days.” KamalaHarris.org. Accessed 1 May 2019.
“Audit of the Handling of Firearms Purchase Denials Through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.” Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice. September 2016.
“Harris: I’ll give Congress 100 days to pass gun laws.” Video. CNN. 23 Apr 2019.
Horwitz, Sari. “Tens of thousands with outstanding warrants purged from background check database for gun purchases.” The Washington Post. 22 Nov 2017.