Never has the national dialogue on guns been more bankrupt of intellectual honesty than in the recent stupefying opinions expressed by U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.
Swalwell, a congressman from the San Francisco Bay area, aptly began his recent attempt at virtue signaling to his progressive base in USA Today—a newspaper that too often reads like a national attempt to dumb down American discourse.
“[W]e should ban possession of military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, we should buy back such weapons from all who choose to abide by the law, and we should criminally prosecute any who choose to defy it by keeping their weapons,” wrote Swalwell.
Swalwell then held up Australia’s gun confiscation in the late 1990s as a model for us to follow.
To substantiate his claim that such a national gun confiscation is constitutional, Swalwell opined that the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t declared so-called “assault weapons” to be protected by the Second Amendment. He claims this by noting that when the Supreme Court held in 2008 that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm, “Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that this right ‘is not unlimited’ and is ‘not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.’”
While it is true that there are reasonable restrictions placed on every right, Swalwell stretches this fact to absurdity by blithely ignoring the fact that the majority opinion in that case also substantiated that the Second Amendment does protect guns that are in “common use,” which modern sporting rifles certainly are.
Then, caught up in the applause from the mainstream media, Swalwell forgot the old saw, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” When NBC News asked him to explain his gun confiscation idea, he broadcast what he is full of.
“I’d make sure we get rid of detachable magazines and the pistol grip—to me that’s the feature that make [sic] it most deadly,” said Swalwell.
Now, pistol grips might be more comfortable for some, and they can make it more difficult for an attacker to get a firearm away from someone (this is one reason why modern sporting rifles are ideal for home defense), but how do they make a rifle more “deadly”?
As for detachable magazines, does Swalwell have any clue how common they are with many types of rifles? Does his ignorant dislike of pistol grips and detachable magazines mean he also wants to ban all semi-automatic pistols?
Swalwell also expressed a complete ignorance of caliber choices.
“I told a story in the op-ed about a victim who was shot in the back of the thigh,” Swalwell said. “I remember his family members asking me while I was interviewing them, ‘How could you die if you’re shot in the thigh?’ When the pathologist told the jury that the sheer energy from that [.223 Rem.] round was enough to cause the blood loss after hitting an artery, I think they were just stunned that a weapon that is legal in our country could do that kind of damage.”
Of course, any bullet—big or small, fast or slow—that hits an artery will cause catastrophic bleeding. And a trip to any store that sells ammunition could have informed Swalwell that the .223 Rem. cartridge has less energy and is therefore less “powerful” than most common big-game hunting cartridges.
But Swalwell wasn’t done. “I think (the old) approach has created a false equivalence between the Second Amendment and someone’s right to go to the church and go home, someone’s right to go to a mall and go home, someone’s right to go to a concert and go home,” he said. “In that false equivalence, we’ve allowed, I think, an expansion of harmful weapons being put out in our communities.”
This is the confused babble of a politician who clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about. He seems to be saying that people have a right to live, so therefore others shouldn’t have the right to own semi-automatic rifles. This confused leap of logic blindly misses the basic fact that the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports shows that rifles of all types are used in less than 3 percent of murders. It also avoids the fact that AR-15s have been sold to U.S. citizens since 1963, the same year the U.S. military adopted the M16. And it doesn’t address the fact that semi-automatic rifles have been available since the late 19th century.
Clearly the problem that a few terrorists and some evil people are attempting, and at times succeeding, to commit mass murder isn’t the fault of rifles, magazines or pistol grips—or of vans and trucks for that matter. It is a more complex problem we need to focus in on to solve as best we can.
That, however, would take honesty and intellectual vigor—two things Swalwell has yet to exhibit.
Frank Miniter is the co-author of Conquer Anything—A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team.