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Kamala Harris vows to take executive action on guns if elected president

Harris vows executive action on guns if elected
Sen. Kamala Harris outlines plans to curb gun violence if she's elected president 01:23

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris is proposing a series of executive actions she would take as president to enact gun control policies if Congress failed to pass comprehensive legislation within the first 100 days of her administration.

The California senator previewed the plan during a town hall Monday night on CNN, and her campaign plans to unveil the full proposal Tuesday, according to a campaign aide.

"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 and specifically what I would do is put in a requirement for anyone who sells more than five guns a year, they are required to do background checks when they sell those guns," she said Monday. "I will require for any gun dealer that breaks the law, the ATF take their license."

Her plan calls for executive action to implement "near-universal" background checks, close loopholes to prevent those convicted of domestic violence from obtaining firearms and revoke licenses from gun manufacturers and dealers who break the law, according to a copy of the plan obtained by CBS News.

The proposal by Harris, a former prosecutor, comes as Democratic presidential candidates have been embracing tougher gun laws on the campaign trail, a sign of growing frustration on the issue within the party and among the broader public. Harris, who has said she owns a gun, is the first among the crowded field of candidates to detail a plan and vow to take executive action if Congress doesn't pass comprehensive reforms.

Harris' plan would direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to define a "gun dealer" as anyone who sells five or more guns for profit per year, subjecting them to federal laws requiring conduct background checks on all sales. Harris would issue the order if Congress failed to pass universal background checks within her first 100 days in office.

Harris would also reverse a Trump administration policy that narrowed the definition of "a fugitive of justice," leading to the removal of tens of thousands of names from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Under the current policy, only fugitives who have crossed state lines to avoid charges are prohibited from purchasing a gun. Harris would order the ATF to bar anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant from buying a gun.

The senator's plan also focuses on a 2005 law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which restricts lawsuits by victims of gun violence against manufacturers and retailers. Harris supports a repeal of the law and, absent congressional action, would direct the ATF to revoke the licenses of manufacturers and dealers who violate negligence, nuisance and marketing laws. Additionally, Harris would order the government to take "the most egregious actors to court for criminal liability."

Harris would also direct the ATF to issue a regulation closing the so-called "boyfriend loophole" to prevent those convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a firearm. Current law bars convicted abusers from purchasing firearms, but only applies to those who were married to, lived with or had a child with the victim.

Additionally, the senator reiterated her support for legislation to make gun trafficking a federal crime, ban high capacity magazines and ban anyone convicted of a federal hate crime from purchasing a firearm.

The Guns of Chicago 13:35

Peter Ambler, executive director of the advocacy group Giffords, said the plan sends "a powerful signal to the country and voters that Kamala is going to make gun violence prevention a core part of her candidacy and her presidency."

"The politics have fundamentally changed," Ambler said. "You've got a remarkable level of cohesion in terms of candidates' commitment to addressing gun violence ... It's become a threshold, litmus-test issue for Democrats."

Gun restriction legislation has been elusive on Capitol Hill. Mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, have failed to spur successful congressional action on even modest proposals. Any attempt to use executive action to restrict access to firearms would face vigorous legal opposition from guns rights groups like the National Rifle Association.

CBS News poll taken in February, one year after the Parkland shooting, found 64 percent of Americans are frustrated by the political debate over gun policy, and 75 percent said it was unlikely that Mr. Trump and Congress would make significant changes to gun policy by the end of the year.

The survey also found that 56 percent of Americans think laws covering gun sales should be more strict, while 13 percent said they should be less strict and 31 percent said they should be kept as they are. The survey found a partisan split, with 84 percent of Democrats calling for stricter measures and only 31 percent of Republicans advocating for tougher laws. But 51 percent of independents say gun laws should be stricter.

But as a voting issue, gun policy isn't typically a top driver among voters. In 2018, 60 percent of voters favored stricter gun measures, according to CBS News exit polling. But only 10 percent of voters said it was a top issue. Health care, immigration and the economy outweighed gun policy as voters' top issues in the 2018 midterms. 

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