On 22 April 2019, a quote ostensibly uttered by then-Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris concerning an alleged plan to confiscate guns via an executive order started to circulate on social media:
This was not a genuine statement from Harris.
The quote — “If elected & you don’t surrender your guns, I will sign an executive order & the police will show up at your door” — started circulating a few days after she talked about her views on gun control during a CNN Town Hall. During the event, Harris said she would give Congress 100 days to act on gun control before taking executive action:
Upon being elected, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to get their act together and have the courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws. And if they fail to do it, then I will take executive action.
However, Harris never said the order would result in the forcible confiscation of citizen-owned guns. In fact, Harris made a point to say that this would not be the case. As she explained her position on gun control, she noted that Americans are typically given a “false choice” between protecting the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and confiscating all guns. Harris said the public needs middle-ground options, and that her proposal constituted a “reasonable” approach to gun control.
Here’s Harris’ full statement from CNN’s transcript of the event:
QUESTION: As a future educator, I am really bothered that public schools are being targets for mass shootings. Two days ago was the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, but still two decades later no major gun control legislation has been passed. So my question is, as president, who will you go about keeping our schools safe and keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them?
HARRIS: Thank you, Ben. And I’m sure that there are plenty of students here who, while you were in high school, even middle school, that you had to participate in a drill, right, where you were convened and your teachers taught you about how you need to go and run in a closet because there may be a mass shooter roaming the hallways of your school. And in our America, that should never have to happen.
Conversations take place every night. Conversations take place every night between students and their parents. Why do these things have to happen? Why do we have to have a drill like that? To which, of course, the response is, because there are people in Washington, D.C., supposed leaders, who have failed to have the courage to reject a false choice which suggests you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.
Supposed leaders in Washington, D.C., who have failed to have the courage to recognize, you know what, you want to go hunting, that’s fine, but we need reasonable gun safety laws in this country, starting with universal background checks and a renewal of the assault weapon ban. But they have failed to have the courage to act.
So, Ben, here is my response to you. Upon being elected, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to get their act together and have the Courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws. And if they fail to do it, then I will take executive action.
And specifically what I will do is put in place a requirement that for anyone who sells more than five guns a year, they are required to do background checks when they sell those guns. I will require that for any gun dealer that breaks the law, the ATF take their license. And by the way, ATF, alcohol, tobacco and firearms, well, the ATF has been doing a lot of the “A” and the “T,” but not much of the “F.” And we need to fix that.
(APPLAUSE) And then — on the third piece, because none of us have been sleeping over the last two years, part of what has happened under the current administration is they took fugitives off the list of prohibited people. I’d put them back on the list, meaning that fugitives from justice should not be able to purchase a handgun or any kind of weapon. So that’s what I’d do.
In summary, Harris did say she would take executive action on gun control if Congress failed to act within 100 days of her taking office as president. Her proposed executive order would include gun-control measures such as implementing universal background checks and renewing the ban on assault weapons. But the viral quote about an executive order to confiscate guns appears to be an inaccurate paraphrase of the Democratic candidate’s statement on the matter.