In a recent opinion piece that ran in Newsweek, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California’s San Francisco Bay area, renewed his call for a national policy that most gun controllers likely support, but are unwilling to say out loud: that the federal government should have the power to confiscate our legally purchased and owned AR-platform rifles and countless other semi-automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns. He also wants to be able to charge otherwise law-abiding people with federal crimes if they refuse to give up these guns.
Swalwell is the co-chair of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. He also serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. And, he ran a brief, unremarkable campaign to be the Democrat nominee to run against Donald Trump for President of the United States.
In May 2019, he introduced the “Freedom from Assault Weapons Act.”
This bill never got beyond consideration from congressional committees. But Swalwell hopes to push the bill forward in the near future (no doubt hoping for a Biden-Harris win to bolster support for this anti-Second Amendment proposal).
As he said in Newsweek: “My bill builds upon assault weapon bans that have been introduced previously in Congress, defining assault weapons in the same way. But it would not ‘grandfather in’ weapons already in circulation; instead, after a period in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would develop a price, ATF would buy back the banned guns from people or businesses. All guns bought back would be destroyed.”
Let’s leave aside the fact that this would not be a “buyback,” as the federal government didn’t sell people these firearms in the first place. But let us assume millions of owners of newly banned semi-automatic firearms would not want to sell the government their guns. Then what?
“Owners would have two years in which to sell their weapons in the buyback program; after that, the possession, sale and transfer of these banned assault weapons would become illegal and subject to criminal prosecution. The bill contains exceptions for law enforcement, and allows citizens to possess these weapons at hunting/shooting clubs.”
He also said that the guns he wants to ban are “the murder tools of choice for hateful extremists or untrained law enforcement and military wannabes.”
Right now, Americans own an estimated 16-plus million AR-platform, and similar, semi-automatic rifles. These rifles, of course, are not “assault rifles.” Assault rifles are automatic rifles. Yes, machine guns; not semi-automatics that fire one round with each pull of the trigger.
As John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center has documented, these semi-automatic rifles are used in a tiny percentage of crimes. As Lott noted regarding the national ban that was in effect from 1994-2004: “The percentage of firearm murders with rifles was 4.8% prior to the ban starting in September 1994, 4.9% from 1995 to 2004 when the ban was in effect, and just 3.6% after that (3.9% if you look at just the first ten years after the ban ended).” (These numbers come directly from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.)
Swalwell’s plan to “buy back,” his euphemistic term for confiscate, would likely turn millions of Americans into criminals, would completely violate the Second Amendment and would do nothing to make us safer.Maybe it’s idiotic ideas like this that resulted in Swalwell’s failure to gain even a single percentage point in polls during the runup to his party’s primaries, which led to him dropping out before the first primary ballot was even cast.