Former presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) endorsed an Australia-style buyback program during a congressional hearing on gun control Wednesday morning.
"My proposal would be to do what Australia did, which would be to have a buyback," Swalwell said. He added that under his proposal gun owners would be able to use their "military-style" weapons at a shooting range or a hunting club, but "nowhere else in our community."
Swalwell said the availability of semiautomatic rifles is to blame for a spate of mass shootings that have left dozens of Americans dead in 2019. The Australian government instituted a buyback program after a mass shooting in 1996. Over the course of a year, the government bought back approximately 20 percent of the guns in the country. Homicide and suicide rates decreased, although some researchers have disputed whether these decreases were directly caused by the buyback program.
On his website, Swalwell says he supports banning "military-style semiautomatic assault weapons" through a buyback program and subsequent prosecution for gun owners who do not cooperate. The buyback exempts shooting clubs and law enforcement. Swalwell said that he supports a ban on future sales on "military-style" weapons, but believes more immediate action is necessary to curb the supply of semiautomatic rifles popular among mass shooters. If the weapons are dangerous in the future, they're dangerous today, he argued.
"We would pay at-market rate as they did in Australia for these weapons," Swalwell said. "Australia did this, and they were able to get off the streets 700,000 [guns]. We won't get off as cheaply, but it's not as if this is something that never happens."
New Zealand attempted a mandatory buyback program after the Christchurch mass shooting in March. After six weeks, less than 10 percent of the guns in the country have been turned in to the government. Gun owners have until Dec. 20 to comply with the law or face punishment.
Current estimates put the number of "military-style" weapons currently in circulation in the United States at around 15 million.
Swalwell is not alone in his calls for gun buybacks or confiscation. Presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke (D.) endorsed a mandatory buyback program for AR-15s during the third Democratic presidential debate. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) wrote an op-ed in Time incorrectly claiming the rifle is not used for home defense or hunting despite polling that found otherwise.