Kamala Harris on Gun Control: We Got Great Ideas, But Congress Doesn't Have The Courage To Act


At a Senate hearing on gun safety, Sen. Kamala Harris asked acting FBI deputy director David Bowdich a series of questions about President Trump's plan to arm teachers, and suggested the armed educators might have an "implicit bias" against minority students.

Bowdich mostly deferred, saying: "My thoughts are this is a matter for the legislators to take up and decide what the best solution is."

"Just as a practical matter? What are your thoughts? This a practical matter," Harris pressed.

About gun violence in general, Harris added: "We got great ideas. What we need is we need the United States Congress to have the courage to act."

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Thank you. I also want to recognize not only the hard work the men and women of each of your agencies, but the students who are out there right now protesting. They are mourning the loss of their classmates, and frankly, their innocence to some extent, knowing that they have to be prepared for what might be a massacre in their own schools.

But they are also protesting our inaction, the inaction of Congress, the United States Congress. And whether it is Sandy Hook or Sutherland Springs or Stoneman Douglas high school, I think all of these young people, these leaders are making very clear it's a false choice to suggest you are either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone's guns away.

And right now, what we need is we need to have common sense gun safety laws in our country. And frankly, to get to that place, I would suggest that -- I do not think -- I don't know what we're waiting for. We do not need any more tragedies. We've seen some of the most tragic incidents that one could imagine, and we do not need any new ideas.

We got great ideas. What we need is we need the United States Congress to have the courage to act. And so you know, having said that, I am troubled by a suggestion that that has come from the administration that one solution might be that we arm teachers, and I just want to really understand what that might mean.

Let us break it down. So as a career prosecutor, I have worked with many communities where children go to sleep each night hearing gunfire. And so what we're proposing is that those children -- remember Sandy Hook, we're talking about six and seven-year-olds, so the children are supposed to go to school and look at the front of their class at their second grade teacher and she's going to be strapped with a gun.

I do not understand how that makes any sense. Let us also talk about in the context of the studies that have been conducted by the National Criminal Justice Resource Center, which is funded by the United States Department of Justice, which tells us that for trained law enforcement officials, they only hit of their intended target approximately 20 percent of the time.

So in an armed confrontation, they only hit their intended target approximately 20 percent of the time. Now we're talking about giving teachers some limited training on how to use a gun. I would suggest that their numbers aren't going to be better than that. And when we say we miss our intended target, we are necessarily also saying that there may be people that we hit that we did not intend to hit.

And if we're talking about a teacher in a classroom, that could very well be the other students. I would suggest be a bit smarter about what we really intend to be the focus of legislation and policy. And Director Bowdich, I would love your thoughts on that in terms of what that would result in if we're talking about limited training of teachers to be strapped with a gun, and what might be your concern about unintended consequences of a policy of that nature.

BOWDICH: Well, ma'am, I have spent my -- I share the outrage of these attacks, first off. And as a career law enforcement officer, both at the local and the federal level, I'm not a legislator, and I believe that as legislators...


HARRIS: Is this is a practical matter? What are your thoughts? Is this a practical matter?

BOWDICH: I, like everyone else in the room have personal thoughts on things, but I am not here representing me. I am here representing the FBI. My thoughts are this is a matter for the legislators to take up and decide what the best solution is.

HARRIS: OK. I would suggest that your thoughts would be very relevant to the decisions we make, but we can have that conversation another time. I also have a concern when we talk about this at the impact of having armed teachers as it relates to African-American and Hispanic students. And here is why say that.

There is an overwhelming body of evidence that shows that harsh disciplinary protocols disproportionately impact children of color. We know that in the studies that talk about what the rates are in terms of suspensions and expulsions from school. The FBI has done an extraordinary job, I think, of recognizing implicit bias among all professions, including law enforcement.

And I would suggest that it applies to all professions. Do you have any concerns about a policy that would result in arming teachers and the concern that we should make sure that if something like that were to occur that they would be trying implicit bias.

BOWDICH: Senator, it's a good question. I never really put the two together, but I have not seen the document that you're referencing. I think any -- whatever we decide, training is necessary on all fronts. The implicit bias training that we in the FBI administered two years ago is actually very important for the organization as a whole, both internally but also from the optics of the external as well.

HARRIS: And you've been a leader, the FBI has been a leader on recognizing we all carry implicit bias and it is important we are aware of it when we make decisions, especially exercise judgment that might result in harm or even death to another person. And so I applaud your leadership in that regard. My time is up. Thank you.

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