At a Seattle event focused on her plans for gun safety, Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris described meeting with sobbing mothers of gun-violence victims and children starting their school years with active-shooter drills.
“For all of those reasons, I’m kind of done. I am really kind of done,” said Harris, a U.S. senator from California. “When elected, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to pull their act together on this.”
Otherwise, Harris told the crowd at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute on Friday, she would take executive action. Her plan includes requiring anyone who sells more than five firearms a year to run background checks, banning assault weapons and repealing a law protecting gun manufacturers from lawsuits over crimes committed with their products.
Supporters of Harris filled the Central District theater, which seats up to 285 people, and spilled into an overflow room. Harris staffers said about 500 people signed up to attend the roundtable, which is one of several events planned in the Seattle area over the next few days by Democratic presidential campaigns.
Harris’ calls for fighting against the polarization within the gun-policy debate were met with applause.
“There are supposed leaders in Washington, D.C., 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,” Harris said.
Laura Theodorson, one of the many attendees wearing a Moms Demand Action shirt, said she thought Harris had the best plan on gun control among presidential candidates. An Air Force veteran and self-described “reformed Republican” who now identifies as an independent, she said she believes in balancing responsible gun owners’ rights with “common sense” measures like background checks and banning firearm modification.
Harris said she met with Gov. Jay Inslee earlier in the day and praised him, along with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, with making Washington a model state on gun safety.
But Ferguson, who was seated next to Harris at the event, said the state isn’t as progressive on some fronts as it seems. He cited other states’ bans on high-capacity magazines, a measure that was on the attorney general’s legislative agenda again this year.
Harris was also joined by activists and representatives from the Suquamish and Puyallup tribes, who spoke about gun violence in their communities, as well as the need to address racism and what they see as politicians skirting discussions about gun reform by blaming mass shootings on mental illness.
Gun violence in Tacoma was cited both by Puyallup Tribal Chairman David Bean and Harris herself. She said she spoke to a Tacoma lawmaker who mentioned the high number of shootings this year.
Harris didn’t list any specific policy actions when asked about preventing gun violence outside of mass shootings, but cited her experience meeting with the families of homicide victims as the district attorney of San Francisco. She said it was “often the case” that a mother would come into the office asking to speak to her.
“And she would talk about the fact that nobody was taking the killing of her son, her baby, seriously,” Harris said. “We have to talk about how we have not been treating all communities equally on this.”
Harris said she planned to return to Washington again during her presidential campaign.