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Kamala Harris says she'll ban AR-15 imports if she wins White House  1 Week ago

Source:   USA Today  

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris announced Wednesday she would take executive action to ban the importation of AR-15-style weapons into the U.S. if she’s elected president.

Harris, a California senator, made the pledge during a campaign event in Nashua, N.H., where she detailed how she'd use executive order to pause imports of the firearm until the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can analyze whether the ban should be permanent.

"When we look at the issue of assault weapons, let's be really clear," Harris said. "Assault weapons are designed to kill a lot of people in a very short period of time. Let's look at the facts: 1 in 4 police officers killed in the line of duty by gunfire is killed by an assault weapon."

There are roughly 15 to 20 million "modern sporting rifles,” which typically refers to semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15, in the United States according to a 2015 estimate from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. About 4 million of those firearms have been imported. The organization's estimate also includes weapons produced for law enforcement.

There is some precedent for curbing assault-style weapons. In 1989, following a school shooting that left five people dead, President George H.W. Bush announced a permanent ban on 43 types of semi-automatic assault rifles that failed to pass the so-called “sporting purpose” test.

During Bill Clinton's presidency, Congress passed a 10-year ban on the manufacture for civilian use of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The ban, which expired in 2004, was among the reasons Clinton later cited for Democrats facing a historic thumping in the 1994 midterm elections. Clinton also used executive action in 1998 to ban an additional 58 assault-style weapons following an updated ATF review.

"We cannot any longer afford to allow people to make this a partisan issue," Harris said. "President Bush knew that and President Clinton knew that. Both of them used executive action for similar reasons, so let's speak truth on this issue."

Shifting demographics have made advocating for tougher gun laws less of a risky notion for Democratic contenders. Generation Z voters, ages 18 to 23 for next year’s voting, will make up one of 10 eligible voters. Young Americans, ages 18 to 29, broadly support Congress passing stricter gun regulations, according to an April 2018 NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll. 

Sen. Cory Booker, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, has made tightening gun laws a central part of his pitch to voters.

Booker earlier this month unveiled a sweeping plan to reduce gun violence that includes establishing a national gun licensing program, limiting individual purchases of firearms to one per month, and placing a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Last month, Harris said she'd use executive action on gun violence if Congress failed to pass comprehensive gun safety measures in her first 100 days in office.

Harris has said she is seeking background checks for anyone who sells five or more guns annually; revoking the licenses of law-breaking gun manufacturers and dealers; and closing the so-called "boyfriend" loophole to prevent those convicted of domestic violence from obtaining guns from dating partners.

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