Gun laws or second amendment is a ‘false choice,’ Harris says in Chicago

By Bianca Flowers

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris jumped into another divisive American issue ahead of the 2024 re-election campaign on Friday, vowing support for activists trying to end gun violence and accusing gun law opponents of “hypocrisy.”

Harris, who has embraced a more combative role as President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign kicks into gear, took a swipe at Republicans who have blocked Democrats’ proposed gun safety laws, saying such changes are no threat to Americans’ constitutional gun rights.

“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 said.

The “very people who refuse to engage in a meaningful debate and discussion on this, who refuse to pass reasonable laws are the same ones who talk about accountability all the time,” she said at a Chicago event organized by Everytown for Gun Safety, an anti-gun violence organizations. “The hypocrisy of that.”

The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment protects the rights of Americans to “keep and bear arms,” citing the necessity of a “well-regulated militia.” Gun rights groups have fought any legislative attempt to curb those rights, calling them an infringement on the Constitution, even as most Americans say they favor stronger gun laws.

Biden last year signed into law the first major federal gun reform in years and has pursued executive actions on the issue. But he has been unable to secure votes for a renewed ban on large-capacity and semiautomatic “assault” weapons, even as the U.S. has suffered a surge in mass shootings since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harris was speaking at Everytown’s “Gun Sense University” in Chicago, an annual event where activists and survivors of gun violence, many of them members of the 10 million-strong “Moms Demand Action” group, gather for training and political organizing.

The United States has by far the highest rate of gun deaths among rich countries, and gun deaths became the top cause of death for children and teens in 2020.

The Biden campaign are hoping that anger at gun violence could help propel young people to vote and regard engaging them as critical to delivering the president another four-year term in office. Now, they plan to deploy Harris increasingly to engage with that segment of voters, according to a person familiar with those plans.

“Your generation is critical,” Harris said to loud applause when a student asked her what role she could play. “We are counting on you. We need you.”

On Thursday, four major gun safety groups, including Everytown, endorsed Biden’s 2024 re-election bid, which unlocks donations by the interest groups’ political action groups.

Everytown is founded by billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent $1 billion on his 2020 Democratic presidential bid before becoming the largest donor supporting Biden and other Democrats.

Makayla Jordan, a 19-year-old member of Students Demand Action, said mass shootings are just one part of the country’s “everyday” gun violence epidemic. The danger of being shot on the way to school was higher than that of in-school shootings for many Black children, she said.

(Reporting by Bianca Flowers in Chicago; Writing by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons and Rosalba O’Brien)