Vice President Kamala Harris said on Wednesday that she is “absolutely in favor of the Second Amendment”, but that she’s also “in favor of an assault weapons ban.” It’s not the first time (or even the hundredth time) we’ve heard a politician tout their supposed support for the right to keep and bear arms before demanding an infringement on that right, nor will be it the last, but like every other elected official who’s trotted out that line, Harris couldn’t be bothered to explain what that support actually looks like or provide an example of a gun control law that she would object to.
Harris has trotted out similar tropes in the past. One of her favorite straw man arguments is “there are some people who are just trying to sell a false choice … that you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment, or you want to take everyone’s guns away.” She’s used that statement multiple times, even before she was tapped to be Joe Biden’s running mate. In April 2019 she declared, “There are people in Washington, D.C., supposed leaders, “who have failed to have the courage 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.”
In March 2021, it was “reject the false choice of — and stop pushing it for sure — stop pushing the false choice that this means everybody’s trying to come after your guns,” while in August of this year she told gun control activists “there are some people who are just trying to sell a false choice, which we know to not buy. That false choice be to suggest [sic] that you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.”
In fact, during that same confab with gun control activists, she also used the same line she used today, telling them, “I believe in the Second Amendment, but I also believe we need to renew the assault weapons ban. We need red flag laws. We need universal background checks.”
You’d think with all of the gun control activists working for the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention they’d be able to come up with some new talking points for the vice president, especially since these statements are meaningless twaddle. What exactly does supporting the Second Amendment mean to Kamala Harris when she’s previously argued that a ban on handguns wouldn’t violate our right to keep and bear arms? Harris was the District Attorney in San Francisco when she signed on to an amicus brief in the Heller case that urged the Supreme Court to uphold D.C.’s ban on handguns because (in the words of the brief), lower courts had held that “the Second Amendment provides only a militia-related right to bear arms” and the District’s handgun ban bears “a reasonable relationship to protecting public safety and thus do not violate a personal constitutional right.”
As far as I’ve been able to tell, Harris has never repudiated that position, even after the Supreme Court ruled that D.C.’s handgun ban was a violation of the Second Amendment rights of D.C. residents. So when she says she supports the Second Amendment, which one is she talking about? The one that protects an individual right to keep and bear arms from government infringement, or the supposed right to carry a firearm as part of service in a government-organized militia?
Surely if Kamala Harris supports the individual right to keep and bear arms she would find at least one gun control policy objectionable, but once again the public record is lacking any such statement from the vice president at any point in her political career. When she was D.A. in San Francisco she argued in favor of D.C.’s handgun ban, and as California’s Attorney General she defended a host of gun control laws enacted by legislators in Sacramento. During her time as California’s junior senator she not only co-sponsored a ban on so-called assault weapons but declared her support for a mandatory “buyback”; i.e., a compensated confiscation effort.
There are plenty of examples of Harris declaring her support for specific gun control laws, but virtually no quotes in the public record about her opposition to a particular gun control law because she believes it would violate the rights protected by the Second Amendment. We know that Harris views outright bans on commonly-owned firearms as “reasonable” measures, so why has she (apparently) never uttered a word about an unreasonable restriction?
The next time Harris sits down for a softball interview on the topic, I’d love for the reporter to instead ask her some legitimate but pointed questions that drill down into her standard talking points. What does supporting the Second Amendment mean to her, exactly? What’s an example of a gun control law that goes too far? Does the Second Amendment, as she interprets it, protect the right to own a handgun for self-defense? Does it protect the right to carry a handgun in public?
Those are just the basics. Someone in charge of gun policy for the White House should also be able to answer, at a minimum, how long can guns be “temporarily” taken from their lawful owners absent a criminal conviction or an adjudication of mental effectiveness before their Second Amendment rights are implicated? How long can cities or states delay the issuance of a concealed carry license before someone’s Second Amendment rights are infringed? What makes a “sensitive place” so sensitive that lawful carry can be banned in a particular location?
A Second Amendment supporter should have little difficulty answering these queries, but if these questions are never posed to her I doubt we’ll ever hear her thoughts on these topics. She’ll stick to her carefully scripted straw man arguments and vapid calls for gun bans as long as the press will let her… which means we’ll probably be hearing her same old schtick as long as she’s in office.