Bringing her U.S. Senate campaign to San Diego, the Democrat spoke to party leaders and admirers at a Kearny Mesa labor union headquarters.
Harris, 51, earlier told an afternoon press briefing at SEIU Local 221 that “people have been offering us a false choice, suggesting that either you support the Second Amendment or you want to take away all of our guns.”
It’s not true, she said.
“I support the Second Amendment, but I also support the renewal of the assault weapons ban. I also support the need for comprehensive background checks for people who want to purchase a gun.”
The original ban, signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 in the wake of several California gun massacres, expired in 2004. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the 1994 bill’s author, failed several times to reinstitute the ban — the latest in 2013 following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
Explaining her run for Senate, Harris called herself a “very proud daughter” of California, and said she believed in the adage, “As California goes, so goes the rest of the country, if not the world.”
Harris spoke about her priorities as the current attorney general and her dedication to realizing them on a national level.
“Cyber threat is as big of a threat as anything you can imagine,” she said. “Some suggest, and I don’t disagree, that we should stop using the work cyber security — because it is a misnomer.”
Cyber security doesn’t really exist, she said during an hourlong visit — her latest here since late October, when she addressed a local Democratic convention in Escondido.
“It’s about risk and minimizing risk,” the attorney general said, adding that the threat is coming more from nation-states than from individuals.
She seeks adoption of better technology for local, state and federal law enforcement.
Harris also addressed the security issue of ISIS, or Islamic State.
“ISIS profits off of murder, rape and oil,” Harris told a press briefing. It is “one of the most cruel and life-threatening gangs that we have on the planet right now. We need to do everything we can to take them out, but do it in a smart way. I do not support putting troops on the ground right now.”
While she supports current Special Operations actions and airstrikes, she wants the U.S. to build alliances with other nations and call on neighboring Middle East nations to contribute resources to fight ISIS.
“I support leading with our own values,” she said.
Harris said accepting immigrants is at the heart of the American experience.
“We cannot allow the image of Paris or San Bernardino, the tragedy of those, to cause us to also forget the image of the 3-year-old boy washing up on a Mediterranean beach,” she said. “We must not let anyone suggest to us that it a false choice between one or the other.”
On domestic immigration, Harris said the vast majority of immigrants want to live lawfully in this country and believe in the American dream.
Harris criticized “misinformed” and “misdirected” immigration discussions in the nation’s capital.
Referring to the oft-told story of a woman killed by an undocumented person in San Francisco, she said, “It is wrong to suggest that we craft public policy for 11 million plus people around our collective outrage around one man’s conduct.”
Speaking as a career prosecutor, she said: “I know what a crime looks like and I know what a criminal looks like, and an undocumented individual is not a criminal. Have to change that discussion.”
Harris favors a path to citizenship for undocumented people living in the United States.
“We need to support their ability to get in line.” She called the Republican rhetoric “ridiculous” and not reflecting America’s values.
A child of parents active in the civil rights movement and a member of the second class to integrate the University of Berkeley, Harris reminded the audience that it takes time to make progress on issues such as same-sex marriage, immigration and increasing the minimum wage.
On climate change and the environment, the attorney general said global battles will be waged over water. Water storage, recycling, desalinization and conservation must be part of the equation to solve the resource shortages, she said.
Harris is opposed by fellow Democrat Loretta Sánchez, an Orange County congresswoman, and at least seven Republicans, including Assemblyman Rocky Chávez of North County. The top two vote-getters in the June 7 primary, no matter which party, face off in November.
Incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer announced a year ago she would not run for a fifth term, setting up a race for the first open California seat in 24 years. Harris entered the race within days.