Vice President Kamala Harris this week sounded an alarm for a woman’s right to choose and the ability to vote against gun violence, as she urged members of the NAACP’s national convention in Atlantic City to protect hard-fought constitutional guarantees she warned are now being eroded.
“Freedom and liberty and democracy are on the ballot, and we have to make sure our voices are heard,” she said, in a speech clearly aimed at laying out what was at stake in the coming 2022 midterm elections.
The vice president’s speech was part of an effort to highlight the accomplishments of President Joe Biden’s administration over the past two years. Harris, the first woman and first person of color to serve as vice president, spoke of economic inequities that still fall disproportionately on Black communities and women.
“We see and are prepared to address the disparities that are holding so many people back in our nation — disparities that we see in education, in economic opportunity, in housing, healthcare, and more,” she said.
She talked of educational opportunities that are not accessible to all children and noted the lack of proper health care that still has an unequal impact on so many people.
“Today, in America, Black women are three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes. Native American women are more than twice as likely to die,” she said. “Rural women are more than one and a half times more likely to die. So we have elevated, for an obvious reason, the issue of maternal health so it will be a national priority.”
But it was guns, abortion and voting rights that was at the forefront of her concerns as she spoke to a large crowd in Atlantic City.
She recalled a recent funeral she attended in Buffalo for a grandmother gunned down amid a racist mass shooting that killed 10 people and injured three others at a supermarket. She spoke of a visit she made to Highland Park in Illinois, “where there were strollers and lawn chairs were scattered up and down the street where there was supposed to be a parade.”
Scenes of ordinary life in America have been turned into “horrific scenes of violence,” said Harris, declaring that the need for reasonable gun safety laws is a civil rights issue.
“Today we have more guns in our nation than people,” she said. “We need to do more.”
The vice president called for the repeal of the liability shield that protects gun manufacturers, as well as the renewal of the assault weapons ban.
Assault weapons, she noted, are designed to kill a lot of human beings quickly.
“There is no reason for weapons of war on the streets of America,” said Harris.
The vice president, who has been traveling across the country in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision that ruled the Constitution does not guarantee the right to an abortion — meeting with various state legislators at the White House, in Orlando, Florida, and in Philadelphia — also decried that decision.