Gun Control

If Congress Does Not Change Federal Gun Laws, Kamala Harris Promises, She Will Do It by Presidential Fiat

The California senator claims she could impose "near-universal background checks" and close the "boyfriend loophole" without new legislation.


"If Republicans continue to cower to the NRA," says Democratic presidential contender Kamala Harris, she will impose new gun controls by "executive action." If Congress does not change the law, in other words, Harris will, although that is not part of the president's constitutional job description.

The California senator's campaign website promises that "if Congress fails to send comprehensive gun safety legislation to Harris' desk within her first 100 days as president—including universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, and the repeal of the NRA's corporate gun manufacturer and dealer immunity bill—she will take executive action to keep our kids and communities safe." Harris does not claim that as president she could unilaterally ban "assault weapons" or repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. But she does claim she could change the law in two other significant ways.

Harris thinks the president can "mandate near-universal background checks by requiring anyone who sells five or more guns per year to run a background check on all gun sales." Since only federally licensed dealers are legally required to run background checks, such a rule would require dramatically expanding that category.

The problem is that federal law defines a gun dealer as someone who is "engaged in the business of selling firearms," which in turn is defined as a "devot[ing] time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms." The statutory definition explicitly excludes "a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms." Under Harris' plan, which she discussed on CNN yesterday, a hobbyist or collector who sold more than four guns in a single year would be required to obtain a federal license and conduct background checks, which is plainly inconsistent with current law.

Likewise Harris' plan to "close the 'boyfriend loophole' to prevent dating partners convicted of domestic violence from purchasing guns." Under current law, people convicted of misdemeanors involving "domestic violence" are barred from possessing firearms. But crimes against dating partners count as "domestic violence" only if the perpetrator has lived with the victim or produced a child with him or her. The House version of the bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act would eliminate those requirements. Harris seems to think she can accomplish the same thing without new congressional action, but it's hard to see how. Congress has defined "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence," and only Congress can change the definition.

In trying to impose new gun restrictions by presidential fiat, Harris would be taking a page from Donald Trump, who demanded an administrative ban on "bump stocks" that required twisting the statutory definition of machine guns beyond recognition. Barack Obama also tried to expand gun control without congressional approval, although his administration did not go nearly as far as Harris proposes, and it recognized that banning bump stocks was inconsistent with existing law. It is telling that Harris believes voters who are appalled by Trump's power grabs would welcome a Democratic president who thinks she can ignore the law as long as they like her policies.

NEXT: The New York Times Built a Functioning Private Facial Recognition System

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Let’s ban the loophole loophole.

    1. What we are looking at is not a Federal Republic, he!! it’s not even a Democracy (which we are not). This is pure Statism i.e. Communism. I worry about the abject level of stupidity our nation is lowering itself to, Given the history of Communist regimes.

  2. I’d bang Kam, not ashamed to admit.

    1. I’d bang her bwana-hard if you’re curious….

    2. You should be.

    3. She’s my age, actually a little older. Why would I want that when it’s obvious that every 30 yr old wants me?

    4. Huh. I had to “Google photos” her name. She’s prettier in some pics than others, but okay on the whole. In her best photos, she looks like an older version of Iris West on the TV show The Flash.

      I find that attitude affects my perception of someone’s attractiveness however. Even out of the dem field, she seems particularly authoritarian. It’s not just this “I’ll make my own laws” attitude here. She was a staunch drug warrior and that comes from a different view of life that doesn’t just go away because the public attitude changes. Sorry, but authoritarian are a huge turnoff to me. They make me want to puke.

    5. Mongo,

      Harris promises to change gun regulations so that a misdemeanor against a date can prevent someone from buying a gun. This means we need to know her definition of a day. Internet users now have a good reason to ask her to describe her idea of a date on social media.

      Does cybersex count as a date?

      What if you ask her to a join you at your friend’s birthday party?

      These questions can be fun to ask in a flame war.

    6. GROSS.

      AOC I can at least understand. She’s young, decent body, and so-so face… But Harris, hell no!

  3. This is as the Constitution intended, as seen by the great oracle, Hihn The Pestilent.

    1. His libertarian arguments for common sense gun safety regulations were always welcome.

      Since my #UnbanPalinsButtplug campaign seems to have worked, maybe I’ll focus on #UnbanMichaelHihn now.

      1. What arguments for “common sense” gun safety regulations. Nothing he proposed would have come withing a million light years of being “common sense”.

  4. It is telling that Harris believes voters who are appalled by Trump’s power grabs would welcome a Democratic president who thinks she can ignore the law as long as they like her policies.


    1. Yuppers

    2. Not sure exactly, outside the stupid bump stock ban and possibly his emergency order on the border (it can be argued he simply used the power Congress gave him) what exactly power has Trump grabbed? Much less than Obama.

      1. Has he executed an American citizen who hasn’t been charged with a crime yet?

    3. It’s as if somebody has never heard the phrase “principals, not principles”. No Democrat is appalled or outraged or sickened, devastated, triggered, horrified, alarmed or even the least little bit concerned about the “power grab” part of “Trump’s power grabs” no matter how much they pretend to be.

      1. Exactly. They only care about who is grabbing the power. They see government as an instrument of will rather than an institution to maintain peace and equality. And that’s why they want departments for every little aspect of our lives vs a small government focused only on maintaining a free society.

  5. She’s never going to be the POTUS so who cares?

    1. I vote for people I want to fuck.

      1. better plan than most.

        1. I didn’t know sheep were eligible for elective office.

          1. Burn!!!

          2. Sheep aren’t people. Two populations belong to the same species if they have the potential to produce fertile offspring with each other. I’m sorry to have to break this to you Eddy, but you’re not the real father of any of those critters in your flock, no matter how much child support you pay to those ewes.

      2. Well that works out nicely, the people you vote for are going to fuck you.

    2. Never say never.

      She’ll probably win California on Super Tuesday, and her law and order take + pro-immigration may give her Texas, on Super Tuesday, as well.

      She’s kicking ass in both the polls and fund raising for a relative unknown. I wouldn’t count her out of the primaries. And then she becomes a major threat come 2024, even if she doesn’t win in 2020.

      1. She’s polling consistently around 8 % and is a distant fourth place behind Biden, Sanders and Mayor Pete (I know I’ll butcher his last name). I don’t think that qualifies as killing it in the polls. Yes, she’s got a lot of money from California democratic donors.

        1. In the polls that don’t prompt you with names, but simply ask you who you support, she disappears into the rounding error. So do most of them, except Biden and Sanders.

          Her current appearance of support is just a polling artifact.

        2. At this point in the polls, we’re mostly talking about name recognition.

          Hardly anybody even knows who she is outside of California.

          She’s beating better known names like Warren in the polls. She’s raising a ton of cash, especially from Silicon Valley in California. She’s likely to get all the California delegates.

          This all augers well in her favor. Her campaign is going well.

      2. She might win the primaries. If she does, democrats will have another low-turnout year, around 15% of Sanders supporters will flip to Trump again, the Midwest states will all go to Trump again and we will end up with Trump 2020.

  6. I thought the boyfriend loophole was “I told him I had a boyfriend, but he seduced me anyway!”

    1. >>>boyfriend loophole

      if boyfriend is Congressman, can have guns.

    2. What?

      When a date tells you that he or she has a boyfriend, etiquette dictates a quick conference call between the three of you to clarify the ground rules for the night.

  7. OT: I hope GOT doesn’t kill Tormund. His death is not necessary to advance the plot, he’s got children and he’s so well liked. Golly.
    And if the “pack survives” shouldn’t that mean that the pack of people (Jamie, Tyrion, Pod, Brienne, Tormund and Davos), who were sitting by the fire, will survive the battle against the NK?

    1. And also Tormund called Jamie “King Killer” so maybe that’s a hint that Jamie kills the Night King? Just a thought probably won’t happen.

      1. I hope Tormund and Brienne finally get together. I mean if Arya can get naked and do the bastard blacksmith, then anything is possible!

  8. >>>impose new gun controls by “executive action.”

    so “For the People” poster a lie then.

    1. For the people, to the people, what’s the difference?

      1. three letters.

  9. Commies for Kamala. Willie Brown approves of her Kamala toe.

  10. Democrats are one-upping each other in their bid for the support of insane primary voters.

    1. +100

  11. 2nd Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    Makes sense that a Democrat thinks that they can infringe on gun rights as President.

    Just another reason why Kamala Harris beat Trump in 2020.

    1. The Democrat socialists better disarm the American people before they try to implement the Green New Deal. As Australia showed with the voters’ reaction to their carbon tax, a government can’t stay in power by democratic means once the costs become price signals rather than theories. They’ll be kicked out on their ass in the next election–and they know it! They cannot implement something like the Green New Deal without authoritarianism, and disarming the American people makes a ton of sense from that perspective.

      I have little doubt but that the contempt we see for democracy (even in its proper place) on the left is specifically because they know they can’t get rid of things like the Second Amendment or implement the Green New Deal by democratic means. It’s also why they’re so hostile to individual rights. People and their rights are always getting in the way of the big plan. Mao, Pol Pot, Castro: now there were some guys who knew how to get things done. Never thought I’d see democracy become such a central issue to libertarianism.

      We might as well call this election what it is: an emergency. The Democrats mean to stream roll libertarianism and capitalism. I hate them for a lot of things–maybe the least of them is making me want to vote for Trump, but when I look at the alternative, the Democrats are a shit show all the way to the bone.

      1. Yup. You wanna get Trump reelected? Because this is how you get Trump reelected. Hell, I almost have to vote for now, just to spit in the face of those who tried to use our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to overturn the desires of the voters.

      2. There’s been a protest going on in France that’s lasted nearly six months, that started over this very thing.

      3. And they can’t disarm the American people. It’s simply not mathematically possible.

        But, they could probably get a lot of blood spilled trying.

        1. They could prove their impotence by trying. That might make people wake up to the evils they worship when they “love the USA”.

        2. The IRS can make your life miserable without it having anything to do with guns.

          The government could easily use the same tactics to life miserable for registered gun owners if it chose to do so.

          And what about the children? Do you know that children die every year from accidental gun shots? Sorry, but every child has a right to a safe home. If you want custody rights or visitation rights with your kid, you need to turn in your guns.

          That’s after they hit you with a penaltax for not turning them in.

      4. “Mao, Pol Pot, Castro: now there were some guys who knew how to get things done. ”

        Or as some persons in Congress would say, “that’s leadership.”

    2. It’s nice to see you’ve come to terms with Trumps Democrat roots.

      1. We need more ex-Democrats who are so Libertarian-ish.

        Trump has done more Libertarian-ish things in government than any Libertarian politician to date.

        1. Thats because he actually got elected.

  12. “If Congress Does Not Change Federal Gun Laws, Kamala Harris Promises, She Will Do It by Presidential Fiat”

    I bet she would drive one of those stupid little Italian cars.

    1. One of the most decorated cars in European history.

      Don’t shit on Fiat!

      1. Isn’t it a poor imitation of a Mini?

      2. Hey, moderators: I just hit the flag on Rufus’s post by accident. Let the record show that I have no problem with that post, and I did not intend to flag it for review.

        Thank you.

      3. Don’t shit on Fiat!

        How could you tell?

      4. Fix it again, Tony.

  13. “It is telling that Harris believes voters who are appalled by Trump’s power grabs would welcome a Democratic president who thinks she can ignore the law as long as they like her policies.”

    The voters who are appalled by Trump’s power grabs are only appalled because it’s not their side that’s doing it.

    1. Exactly. It’s a serious mistake to think Democrats have any principled objection to power grabs. They are entirely devoted to the idea that the end justifies the means.

      To the point where if you discuss it with Democrats who actually have a liberal arts/moral philosophy background, they’ll be genuinely confused as to what else COULD justify means.

      I don’t think most people quite grasp how totalitarian utilitarian ethics really is, ultimately.

  14. Executive overreach by Democratic presidents is not a problem, since the 9th decided that Republican presidents are not eligible to use those powers

  15. Assuming that it’s Harris vs Trump in the next election, I will probably be forced to vote for Trump. I really HATE having to give my support to someone, overall, who will do the “least harm.” But I may have to make a concession this go-around.

    1. We don’t choose the Outlaw life, it chooses us. Molon Labe, motherfuckers!

  16. I think at least half of the Democrat candidates are just doing elaborate virtue signaling. She can’t possibly think this is a winning campaign strategy.

    1. If she did, she wouldn’t be doing it.

  17. What about closing the “boyfriend loophole” for getting appointed to government commissions that can advance your political career?

  18. Every time I turn around the Democrats invent another “loophole” that has to be closed. I hope they don’t think they’re fooling anybody with this shit.

    1. The 2nd amendment is just another loophole to them

  19. As far as I can tell, the biggest “loophole” in background checks is the failure of municipalities, government agencies, and state mental health organizations to timely report criminal convictions or mental health adjudications to the NICS database, or to charge those who have shown violent behavior with a crime. See, for example, the Va. Tech shooting, the Sandy Hook shooting, the Charleston Church shooting, the Texas church shooting, and the Florida school shooting.

    1. Rather than targeting offenders and making the current laws work, they would much prefer to utilize those tragedies as a means to bring the entire collective into line.

    2. Under Democratic administrations they haven’t tried to prosecute people who failed the checks and in doing so were proven to have attempted to illegally buy a gun.

      Because the whole point of the check was just inconvenience, and putting people’s names through a system where they could be turned into some sort of firearms owner list.

  20. I still don’t get how this full-retard calculus makes sense, even for the primaries. Maybe I’m not in touch with the right people, but the far leftists I know have things like healthcare, immigration, tuition debt, and pay disparity higher on their ‘issues that get me off the couch’ list. And moderate leftists have come to the point where putting this issue above the others actually puts them back on the couch. I’m sure all of them would love to see something done about gun violence, but virtually all of them recognize that running on a platform of gun control basically says that you’re going with a strategy that can’t possibly win.

  21. One of my hopes in vain for this presidency was that folks might finally recognize how much power has been inappropriately shifted to the president and maybe start to fix it.
    No, all they’ve “learned” is that, if they get the chance, they’ll notch it up even further. [sigh]

    1. That ship sailed in the 1930s after being built in the 1860s.

  22. How do you legally define a “boyfriend?” Do you have to make it facebook official?

  23. This is exactly what I have warned people about. They love them some “Executive Power Grabs” when it benefits them never thinking that when someone they don’t like is in power, they are going to do it to.

  24. One of these days the gun grabbers are going to grab our guns for real. That’s why I’m prepping. For the Apocalypse.


  25. If she gets ellected I may have to consider sending her a single cigar as a gift and a note telling her to go into the oval office and stick it where she feels its most historically appropriate.

  26. So, will the hot new song be:
    “Springtime for Kammy and Amerika”?

  27. […] week we saw 2020 Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris assert that, if elected president, she could impose “near-universal background checks” and […]

  28. […] week we saw 2020 Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris assert that, if elected president, she could impose “near-universal background checks” and […]

  29. […] himself is hardly immune to the temptations of power. Like his Senate colleague Kamala Harris, another contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, he promises to accomplish by […]

  30. […] himself is hardly immune to the temptations of power. Like his Senate colleague Kamala Harris, another contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, he promises to accomplish by […]

  31. […] himself is hardly immune to the temptations of power. Like his Senate colleague Kamala Harris, another contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, he promises to accomplish by […]

  32. […] himself is hardly immune to the temptations of power. Like his Senate colleague Kamala Harris, another contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, he promises to accomplish by […]

  33. […] That was the headline of a recent article in Reason magazine.. […]

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.