Kamala Harris wouldn’t say Wednesday if the Atlanta shooting that killed six Asian American women was a ‘hate crime’ as she suggested President Joe Biden is hesitant to take executive action on gun control.
The vice president said the White House prefers if Congress would act in a more ‘permanent’ capacity after two mass shootings rocked the nation in the matter of a week.
‘We should first expect the United States Congress to act,’ Harris told CBS ‘This Morning’ during a live, but remote, interview Wednesday morning when asked if Biden is prepared to take executive action.
‘I’m not willing to give up on what we must do to appeal to the hearts and minds and the reason of the members of the United States Senate,’ the vice president continued. ‘I served in that body, and I believe that it is possible, it has to be possible that people agree that these slaughters have to stop.’
Harris’ comments come after Biden announced Tuesday that he is open to executive orders related to gun control – like banning so-called assault weapons.
The vice president was also asked whether the shooting in Atlanta last week at three massage parlors – killing six women of Asian descent – should be called a ‘hate crime.’
‘Many are frustrated about the shooting in Atlanta because it has not been called a hate crime. Should it be?’ CBS host Gayle King asked Harris.
‘Listen, I mean, Gayle, look, you’ve got six Asian American women in Asian American businesses, and you know, just when you look at it, you have to ask this question which is: ‘What is going on?’ Harris deflected.
Vice President Kamala Harris refused to say during a live interview Wednesday morning if the Atlanta shooting that killed six Asian American women was a ‘hate crime’
A shooter traveled to three different Asian-owned massage parlors in the Atlanta area last week, killing eight people
Harris signaled that President Joe Biden is hesitant to take executive action on gun control because the White House wants Congress to make it ‘permanent’ through legislation
While she did address ‘hate crime’ against the Asian American Pacific Islander community, she did not directly link this shooting to that classification despite calls for the administration to do so.
‘The seriousness of AAPI hate crime, especially over the course of the last year, is profound,’ the vice president said. ‘People are being assaulted, people are being cursed out, people are being treated – people are being denied service because they are Asian American. And look, I think we have to be clear that we have a history in America that we need to deal with.’
She added: ‘We have this rise in hate crimes.’
Harris’ interview with Gayle King and Anthony Mason on Wednesday was live – Biden has yet to do a live interview with the press and his first-ever news conference with the media is scheduled for Thursday.
Biden is renewing calls for assault weapons and high-capacity magazine bans in the aftermath of the massacres in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado.
In Atlanta last week, a gunman traveled to three different Atlanta-area massage parlors where he killed a total of eight people – six of Asian American descent. He said he committed the crime to help prevent temptation.
Not even a week later, a gunman opened fire in a Boulder grocery store, killing 10.
‘We can ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again,’ Biden said Tuesday.
He also encouraged lawmakers to act, saying: ‘This should not be a partisan issue. It’s an American issue. It will save lives. American lives. We have to act.’
The president told senators that they should pass two gun control bills, one bolstering background check loopholes for gun buyers, which already passed the House earlier this month.
Asked during his trip to Columbus, Ohio if he had the political capital to get something done, Biden replied, ‘I hope so. I don’t know. I haven’t done any counting yet.’
‘We need to take action,’ Harris said in her Wednesday interview. ‘Let’s be clear about this – there is the piece about executive action, but if we pass legislation, it’s permanent. If we – if the Congress acts, then it becomes law. And that is what we have lacked. That is what has been missing.’
‘We need universal background checks,’ she added, insisting that ‘people will move from one state to another depending on what the law is.’
‘We need to have a federal standard. That is going to be accomplished by the way we have structured our democracy, when the United States Congress acts. The House has acted. Now it’s in the hands of the Senate,’ Harris said.
Less than one week after the Atlanta shooting, another gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, killing 10 people
Biden ordered flags at the White House lowered to half-staff on Tuesday in honor of the 10 victims of a mass shooting in Colorado, as pressure grows on the president to address gun violence.
Harris, on Tuesday, told reporters after swearing in CIA Director William Burns that the shootings ‘tragic’ and ‘absolutely baffling’
‘It’s tragic. Absolutely tragic,’ she said. ‘It’s absolutely baffling, it’s 10 people going about their day living their lives, not bothering anybody. A police officer who is performing his duties, and with great courage and heroism.’
She didn’t answer a question on whether the administration would make gun control a priority in the wake of Monday’s shooting in Colorado and last week’s violence in Atlanta.
Meanwhile, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was taking place Tuesday on reducing gun violence.
At the hearing, Texas Senator Ted Cruz lashed out at his Democratic colleagues for the ‘ridiculous theater’ of pushing gun control measures he said only punished ‘law abiding citizens.’
Harris brushed off Cruz’s comment on Wednesday, claiming: ‘Everytime there is a slaughter, a mass shooting, someone who does not want to be accountable for what we need to do says, ‘Well that wouldn’t have prevented this thing.’
‘You know, arguably, if you take that approach to any law, you would argue that we shouldn’t pass any laws that are designed to protect the health and wellbeing of the American people,’ she said.