Sen. Kamala Harris, whose stump speech includes impassioned calls for banning assault weapons and universal background checks, put it very simply: Yes, she owns a firearm.
“I am a gun owner, and I own a gun for probably the reason a lot of people do – for personal safety,” the California Democrat said Thursday. “I was a career prosecutor.”
The weight of that phrase was a reminder of the personal risk Harris has faced in her career in law enforcement, from being an Alameda County criminal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general.
A Harris campaign aide said the weapon she owns is a handgun, which she keeps locked up, as a responsible gun owner. According to the aide, the handgun was purchased years ago.
Harris made the comment to reporters shortly after meeting supporters at a house party in Des Moines, Iowa. In the crowd were members of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, the grassroots movement that’s part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun control advocacy group in the country. Harris thanked the Moms Demand Action members and again called for an assault weapons ban and “smart gun safety laws.”
“We are being offered a false choice,” Harris said to reporters, after talking about her own gun ownership. “You’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away. It’s a false choice that is born out of a lack of courage from leaders who must recognize and agree that there are some practical solutions to what is a clear problem in our country.”
Many times on the campaign trail, Harris has talked about her disgust at the lack of action in Congress after school shootings, from the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Florida, to the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. At her January CNN town hall, shortly after declaring her candidacy, Harris said Congress would have acted after 20 children and six adults were murdered at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School if lawmakers had been placed in a locked room without press and required to examine “the autopsy photographs of those babies.”
Shortly after Harris’ town hall, the National Rifle Association attacked Harris in a release, calling it “overwrought rhetoric.”
Her passionate calls during her campaign events for congressional action on guns often bring about the most sustained applause from the audience. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in September and October 2018 shows nearly six in ten US adults say gun laws should be more strict.
An earlier survey conducted by Pew found 30% of those asked say they personally own a gun. And protection tops the reason why gun owners have one.
“Part of the practical solution is to agree that we need smart gun safety laws,” Harris said to reporters. “Period.”