"If we pass legislation, it's permanent," Harris told CBS This Morning
Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris
| Credit: CBS This Morning

Vice President Kamala Harris is calling on Congress to pass gun reform legislation in the wake of two recent mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado, saying legislative action would have a more "lasting impact" than executive measures taken by President Joe Biden.

Harris, 56, said she was surprised Congress had not attempted to reform gun laws earlier, considering the devastating mass shootings that have taken place in the U.S. in recent years.

"I actually thought that Sandy Hook would have been the thing that moved Congress ... and they did not act," Harris said in a Wednesday interview on CBS This Morning. "It is time for Congress to act."

The vice president criticized lawmakers who've argued against stricter measures on guns, saying the legislation she and Biden are in favor of — including broader background check requirements and a ban on assault weapons — are "reasonable."

"And stop with the false choices," Harris said. "This is not about getting rid of the Second Amendment. It's simply about saying we need reasonable gun safety laws."

Harris said "there is no reason why we have assault weapons on the street of a civil society."

"They are weapons of war," the vice president added. "They are designed to kill a lot of people, quickly. Let us all agree we need background checks."

In an address at the White House on Tuesday, Biden also called on the Senate to pass two House bills that would enact an assault weapons ban and close background check loopholes.

Biden, 78, said those measures are "common sense steps that will save lives in the future."

Senate GOP members have shown little interest in those measures, however, arguing they erode Second Amendment rights.

With the bills unlikely to secure enough votes to pass the Senate, some gun safety advocates have argued that Biden should take executive action instead.

Joe Biden
From left: Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden
| Credit: ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

So far, the administration is pushing back on calls for executive action. Harris said Wednesday action in Congress would be preferable.

While a president could create new policy via an executive order, such an action could simply be overridden by his successor or, potentially, by Congress or a court.

A piece of legislation passed by Congress, however, would become law.

"If we pass legislation, it's permanent," Harris told CBS. "If the Congress acts, then it becomes law. And that is what we have lacked. That is what has been missing."

Harris added that "we need to have a federal standard and that is going to be accomplished by the way we have structured our democracy, when the United States Congress acts."

Asked if Biden was prepared to take executive action if such measures do not pass in Congress, Harris demurred.

"We should first expect the United States Congress to act," the vice president reiterated. "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."

Harris later clarified that she doesn't think Biden is "excluding" the idea of taking executive action on gun reform, "but I want to be clear that, if we really want something that is going to be lasting, we need to pass legislation."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday the Biden administration is "considering a range of levers" when it comes to gun control.

That involves "working through legislation, including executive action," Psaki said. "That has been under discussion and will continue to be under discussion."