Dem Congressman Pens Op-Ed Calling for Govt. to Ban, Confiscate 'Assault Weapons'

Rep. Eric Swalwell / Getty Images
May 3, 2018

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) wrote an op-ed for USA Today calling for the government to ban and confiscate assault weapons across the United States.

In the article published Thursday, Swalwell argues that a measure similar to the 1994 federal assault weapons ban is not enough to combat gun violence, because it would only prevent new sales of assault weapons. He suggests the government should institute a buy-back program, which would take existing assault weapons out of possession. The congressman also advocates the prosecution of any individual who decides to keep their firearm.

"Reinstating the federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 would prohibit manufacture and sales, but it would not affect weapons already possessed," Swalwell writes. "This would leave millions of assault weapons in our communities for decades to come."

"Instead," he continues, "we should ban possession of military-style semiautomatic 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."

Swalwell notes that law enforcement officials and shooting clubs would be exempt.

Throughout his op-ed, Swalwell never defines what he considers a "military-style semiautomatic assault weapon." Instead, he classifies an assault weapon as a firearm that is capable of "spraying a crowd" with "lethal fire in seconds."

"An assault weapon, then, is a hand-held weapon of war, capable of spraying a crowd with more lethal fire in seconds," Swalwell writes.

"Assault weapon" is a political term that often refers to semi-automatic firearms with specific features and accessories.

Swalwell also discusses the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, admitting that he has used "moral equivalence" arguments regarding the Second Amendment.

"There's something new and different about the surviving Parkland high schoolers' demands," he writes. "They dismiss the moral equivalence we've made for far too long regarding the Second Amendment. I've been guilty of it myself, telling constituents and reporters that 'we can protect the Second Amendment and protect lives.'"

"The Parkland teens have taught us there is no right more important than every student's right to come home after class," Swalwell adds. "The right to live is supreme over any other."

Swalwell also touts Australia's gun buy-back program, noting his proposed U.S. program would be more expensive.

"Based on manufacturing figures and other indirect data, there could be 15 million assault weapons out there," he says. "If we offer $200 to buy back each weapon—as many local governments have—then it would cost about $3 billion; at $1,000 each, the cost would be about $15 billion."

Swalwell says the price tag pales in comparison to the Republican tax reform law.