Kamala Harris to propose AR-15 rifle import ban

Kamala Harris to propose import ban on AR-15 style rifles during town hall forum in Nashua Wednesday morning. (File Photo)

NASHUA — Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris will propose a ban on the importation of all AR-15 style rifles during a town hall forum in the city Wednesday according to a senior campaign official.

Harris, the California senator and ex-attorney general, will further call for suspending all semi-automatic weapon imports while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms examines whether any of 205 named models have any "sporting purpose."

Her forum set for 9:30 a.m. at Girls Inc. on Burke Street is her third visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state since announcing her candidacy.

Campaign officials maintain there are at least 15 million semi-automatic guns or rifles in circulation in the U.S. with more than four million of those having been imported.

These weapons made by foreign companies were used in some recent high-profile mass shootings including Las Vegas in 2017, a Dallas police shooting in 2016 and the attack on the Orlando, Fla., Pulse nightclub in 2016, campaign officials said.

Federal law permits the U.S. attorney general to ban the importation of guns not "suitable for or readily adaptable for sporting purposes."

Both former Presidents George H.W. Bush in 1989 and Bill Clinton in 1998 announced their own import bans on certain guns.

After five children were killed by a gunman in a California schoolyard, the late President Bush imposed a permanent ban on 43 types of semi-automatic assault rifles that failed to pass the so-called “sporting purpose” test.

Then nine years later Clinton announced an import ban on an additional 58 weapons following an updated ATF review.

New Hampshire advocates for gun owners have said banning any specific weapons won't make Americans any safer and that authorities need to do a better job of enforcing the laws already on the books.'

The National Shooting Sports Foundation said the AR-15 is not an assault weapon or assault rifle as both refer to a fully automatic rifle or machine gun that for decades has been restricted for sale to civilians.

"If someone calls an AR-15-style rifle an 'assault weapon,' then they’ve been duped by an agenda," the group said in a policy paper on the topic.

While new firearms have been introduced into the market, ATF has not conducted a comprehensive review of non-importable weapons in 20 years, Harris campaign officials said.

Last month Harris said that if Congress failed to act within 100 days of her taking office, she would pursue executive orders on gun control to include background checks for all gun sales by anyone who sells five or more guns per year and to revoke the license of gun manufacturers and dealers that break the law.

Harris also has called for closing what she called the "boyfriend loophole" that would prevent dating partners convicted of domestic violence from buying guns.

Five other Democratic senators running for President along with Harris — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker — have all signed onto a 2019 bill that would ban the sale or transfer of 205 semi-automatic guns.

U.S. Sen. Booker, D-N.J., recently proposed his own gun control plan presidential run to include a federal gun licensing program along with trying to reduce gun suicides by limiting the access to guns for those at risk of self-harm.

klandrigan@unionleader.com