Towards the end of her appearance on the show, Harris took questions from the audience which was largely made up of college students. A young man asked her about her policy on mandatory gun buybacks and if forcing people to do so is in line with their constitutional right to bear arms.
“Do you believe in the mandatory buyback of quote unquote assault weapons and whether or not you do, how does that idea not go against fundamentally the Second Amendment?” Andrew from Fordham University asked.
“Great question, I do believe that we need to do buybacks and I’ll tell you why,” Harris responded. “First of all, let’s be clear about what assault weapons are. They have been designed to kill a lot of human beings quickly. They are weapons of war with no place on the streets of a civil society. I’ve seen assault weapons kill babies and police officers.”
Harris said, ”I’ll tell you, when elected President, if the United States Congress continues to fail to have the courage to do something about this, I’m prepared to take executive action and put in place a ban on the importation of assault weapons into our country.”
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in August of this year found just 46 percent polled agree with Harris about mandatory assault weapon buyback. On the other hand, 49 percent said they opposed it.
Among those who supported the mandatory measure, 71 percent were Democrats and 47 percent Independents. Among those who opposed the mandatory buybacks, 77 percent were Republicans and 49 percent Independents. Women favored the plan at a higher rate than men.
“A buyback program is a good idea. Now we need to do it the right way,” Harris continued. “And part of that has to be, you know, buy back and give people their value, the financial value of what they have and not just take things from people that have value without compensating them. We need to do it the right way.”
While Harris answered the first part of the Fordham University Student’s question, she neglected to address the second part on whether mandatory buybacks were constitutional.
Harris has repeatedly said that Congress has failed to act to stop violence such as mass shootings so she would use an executive order to implement the mandatory buyback.
Last week former Vice President Joe Biden called out Harris and other Democrat candidates who said they would instate a mandatory buyback through the president’s power to issue an executive order.
“Some things you can, many things you can’t,” Biden said of executive orders. “Let’s be constitutional.”
Harris giggling, said, “Hey Joe, instead of saying that we can’t, let’s say yes we can.”
In a Congressional Research Service’s 2014 report, authored by attorneys Vivian S. Chu and Todd Garvey it states although executive orders are one way a president can exercise his power, “it is equally well established that the substance of an executive order, including any requirements or prohibitions, may have the force and effect of law only if the presidential action is based on power vested in the President by the U.S. Constitution or delegated to the President by Congress.
“The President’s authority to issue executive orders does not include a grant of power to implement policy decisions that are not otherwise authorized by law.
“Leaders need to lead on this issue, and so, I’m telling you, when elected, if Congress fails to act, I’ll give them 100 days to put a bill on my desk for signature. And if they do not do it, I will put in place by executive action a comprehensive background check requirement and a ban on the assault weapons and the importation of assault weapons into our country. I’m done!” Harris concluded.