Vice President Kamala Harris returned to Chicago for her third official visit of the summer on Aug. 11, this time to advocate for common sense gun laws at the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund’s annual Gun Sense University Conference held at McCormick Place.
Harris’ appearance was the signature public event of the three-day conference. She was joined on the main stage by Moms Demand Action Executive Director Angela Ferrell-Zabala and actor Jason George, star of Station 19 and member of the Everytown Creative Council, for a 30-minute Q&A session. The conversation was held in front of hundreds of Moms Demand Action activists.
Moms Demand Action is the grassroots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, one of the country’s largest gun violence prevention organizations.
During her opening remarks, the vice president called on Congress to act on passing common sense gun laws and rejected the notion that the American public must choose between national gun reform and prohibiting citizens from obtaining firearms altogether.
“I believe in the Second Amendment, but I also believe we need to renew the assault weapons ban,” said Harris, who highlighted that gun manufacturers should not be absolved of accountability when discussing gun violence.
Harris’ presence at the conference was the latest instance of the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing effort to advocate for gun law reform legislation since labeling gun violence as a “public health epidemic” in April 2021. According to Harris, President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law in June 2022, the first federal action against gun violence in at least three decades. The law provided $750 million in funding toward state-run and managed crisis intervention programs, prohibits convicted domestic abusers from obtaining a firearm, mental health access initiatives, etc.
When asked by Ferrell-Zabala what the Biden Administration plans to do to keep communities safe from gun violence, the vice president applauded Moms Demand Action and similar gun reform advocates for their persistence in pushing for legislation while also acknowledging more work needs to be done.
“It’s because of your activism that we then had momentum on the inside to pass this historic legislation, but the president would tell you if he were here, I will tell you that [the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act] is historic and it is a drop in the bucket,” said Harris in response. “We still have so much more to do. It is about universal background checks. It is about the assault weapons ban. It is about all of these other things. What we have been able to do to your point about the public health crisis is to put substantial resources into things like mental health, put substantial resources into community-based responses, which is so important.”
Harris said the fight for gun reform legislation is a great opportunity for coalition building among advocates for access to reproductive health, LBTQIA+ rights, and defenders of voting rights.
“The intersection is pretty profound because there is a collective movement if we see the connections that is about freedom,” said Harris. “I do believe that when we are in the fight for America, to realize her promise and to achieve the foundational principles of freedom and equality, we are acting on one of the purest forms of patriotism because we are fighting, born out of love of country, for America to achieve her ideals and the promise of America.”