WASHINGTON – Kamala Harris laid out a gun control plan Wednesday that focuses on domestic terrorism, proposing action to add online gun sellers to background check requirements and expand the mission of the National Counterterrorism Center to include domestic terrorism.
If elected, Harris said she would take executive action to require major online gun sales platforms to perform background checks, ensure domestic terrorism is included in the counterterrorism center’s mission and commit $2 billion to investigate and prosecute domestic terrorists. Under federal law, unlicensed dealers may be legally allowed to sell firearms without conducting a background check, and those sales can occur at gun shows or online.
The Democratic presidential candidate also said she would give law enforcement new tools to fight domestic terrorism by petitioning federal courts to temporarily seize guns from terrorism suspects or individuals who may commit a hate crime.
“In America, loaded guns should not be a few clicks away for any domestic terrorist with a laptop or smartphone,” Harris said in a statement. “We need to take action to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and stop violent, hate-fueled attacks before they happen. By focusing on confronting these domestic terror threats, we can save lives.”
Gun control has been thrust to the forefront of the presidential nominating contest after back-to-back mass shootings earlier this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The suspect in the El Paso shooting was believed to have been motivated by white supremacist beliefs.
President Donald Trump has said he wants “meaningful background checks” while also ensuring that the National Rifle Association’s views are “fully represented and respected” as part of discussions in Congress on the issue. The powerful organization opposes expanding checks.
Among Democrats, Joe Biden said at a gun safety forum last weekend that he wanted guns to have biometric locks based on fingerprints to limit who’s able to use a gun. Elizabeth Warren has called for legislation to tighten firearms regulation and re-institute a federal ban on assault weapons. Warren also called for creating a federal licensing system for gun ownership and raising taxes on firearms and ammunition.
The forum was sponsored by Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by Michael Bloomberg, the owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
Despite the flurry of proposals from the Democratic presidential contenders, many of the plans are predicated on using executive authority, which experts say is limited for gun control. For example, they say a president can’t ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines or require background checks without legislation from Congress.
Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona has also drafted a bill that would make domestic terrorism a distinct crime that can be punished separately by federal authorities.