This week, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), the latest Democrat to jump into their already-jammed clown car of presidential candidates, launched his campaign with a proposal to “ban and buy back every single assault weapon in this nation,” bragging he was the “only candidate” who was “bold” enough to suggest it.
It’s time we take BIG, BOLD action to #EndGunViolence in America. That’s why I’m the only candidate proposing that we ban and buy back every single assault weapon in this nation. pic.twitter.com/rwhvDVBeDG
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) April 9, 2019
There’s a reason Swalwell is the only candidate to suggest this proposal, and it’s not because he’s “bold.” It’s because it’s a terrible, horrible, impractical, insanely expensive, absolutely awful idea, likely to instigate more violence than it could ever hope to prevent. I tweeted a comment along those lines last night:
You’re the “only candidate” proposing this because it’s a 🦇💩 crazy, stupid idea.
Even if you could come up with a workable definition of “assault weapon” AND get past the constitutional hurdles (which I doubt), this would be prohibitively expensive and result in bloodshed. https://t.co/UFLAPU8YNy
— Sarah Rumpf (@rumpfshaker) April 10, 2019
Swalwell was apparently up and scrolling through Twitter (not sure who’s advising him — late night gun rights arguments with RedState writers probably aren’t a good use of his time, but have fun, Congressman) and responded to my tweet.
He fixated on one issue, posting two tweets asking why attempting to take millions of lawfully purchased guns from Americans would result in bloodshed, and whose blood would be shed:
Do I have to explain why Americans chose to buy guns to protect themselves & their families? Do I really have to explain why they don’t want to give them up? I don’t want anyone’s blood being shed but there’s no way this is feasible. https://t.co/WkUkDnAcjk
— Sarah Rumpf (@rumpfshaker) April 10, 2019
Whose blood would be shed?
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) April 10, 2019
Swalwell is the Congressman who thought it was appropriate for the government to threaten to use nuclear weapons to take our guns, so maybe rational arguments aren’t his thing, but I would encourage him to read this excellent National Review article by David French and try to understand the perspective of gun owners, “Why the Left Won’t Win the Gun-Control Debate.”
I’m not optimistic he’ll do that, so let’s go through his proposal starting with the basic terminology. Gun control advocates have had problems for years deciding how exactly to define “assault weapon,” and polls show the term is muddled in the minds of many Americans. Not that it was ever meant to be clear; “assault weapon” is not used by gun manufacturers to identify or categorize their products, but a political term created in the late 1980s for purposes of demonizing certain weapons.
Even when speaking specifically about one specific model, the popular semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, gun control supporters often get critical details wrong about how it is designed and operated. The AR-15 is no more lethal than the common sporting rifles owned by many farmers and ranchers, but changing out a few polished wood parts for black metal seems to make them look scarier.
The plain truth is that the AR-15 is popular because it is lightweight, customizable, has a low recoil, and is a reliable gun when handled and maintained properly.
It’s not because gun owners are salivating over committing mass murders. The data makes that clear: Americans currently own an estimated 15 million AR-15s (possibly more; figure is from 2017). Not even 1 percent of 1 percent of those AR-15s are used in crimes. Specifically, the murders committed in the United States by all types of firearms in 2016 included only 374 by rifles, compared to 6,404 by handguns.
Moreover, even if Swalwell figures out a way to define “assault weapons,” drafts a law to ban them, manages to get the law passed by Congress and it survives the initial round of court challenges (a highly dubious proposition), he then has to figure out how to collect all those weapons.
Remember, Swalwell is proposing to “ban and buy back every single assault weapon” in America.
Just considering the AR-15, which is but one model by one manufacturer, and assuming at least 15 million AR-15s in America with a base price of around $500 to $2,000, that’s a cost of $7.5 billion to $30 billion, for the purchase price alone. Add in the many other types of firearms that Swalwell’s law would target and are we talking $40 billion, $50 billion, maybe even more?
(Being so nonchalant about spending fifty billion dollars here and there is how we end up 22 trillion dollars in debt, but I digress.)
The actual financial costs would be higher by several degrees of magnitude, in no small part because there would be another round of litigation.
When government seeks to take your lawfully acquired private property, it’s called a “taking” and you have the right to demand just compensation. It would take less than 10 percent, maybe even less than 5 percent, of these gun owners to decide to file suit challenging the compensation offered by the government to result in a million lawsuits. Even with the hordes of attorneys our government employs with our tax dollars, the costs of managing a million lawsuits — even just through the initial response and first round of pleadings, never mind any actual hearings or trials — would be astronomical.
Just to indulge Swalwell’s delusional daydreaming, let’s say he manages to pass a law, survive court challenges, get the budget together to buy the guns, and survive more lawsuits, it will require a massive police action to collect those weapons. There are not enough federal law enforcement officers to conduct such an operation, requiring cooperation with local and state police agencies and taking them away from other crime prevention and investigatory work.
Does anyone realistically believe gun owners will just volunteer to give up a gun they legally purchased, received as a gift, or inherited — a gun that they’ve owned and operated safely and lawfully for years, if not decades, without any objection?
How does Swalwell think the government will identify who the owners of these guns are? Demanding private sales records from gun stores? Searching social media posts? Aren’t we going to get yet another round of litigation here from the privacy violations? The American legal tradition is very clear in providing strong privacy rights for your home.
And let’s say the government does manage to obtain records and get an idea who might have these guns. Are we really going to send police to every single door, demanding the guns be turned over?
What if the residents tell the police they don’t actually own an “assault weapon,” that the records are wrong, or that they used to own one but sold it, lost it, or it was stolen? What proof will be demanded? Will the police demand to search the home? What if the residents refuse? What if they see the police coming and refuse to answer the door?
Are we actually going to direct police officers to knock down the doors and force entry into the homes of people with no prior record of violent crime, to tear the place apart looking for a gun that was legally purchased and never used to hurt anyone?
At this point we will also have yet another potential wave of litigation for people defending their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, but more importantly, we would be creating a very real risk of tragedy.
I’m not sure how exactly Swalwell wanted me to respond by repeatedly tweeting, “whose blood would be shed,” — perhaps he was seeking validation for the gun control advocates’ stereotypical caricature of gun owners as bloodthirsty militants — but the kind of intrusive and forcible government action required to seize guns from millions of previously peaceful Americans is a recipe for disaster.
It’s not because gun owners are dreaming of civil war, or actually want to shoot a cop. It’s the fact that interactions between police and civilians aren’t always predictable.
Simple traffic stops in broad daylight have escalated where either the officer or the citizen ended up hurt or killed for a variety of reasons, some innocent, some nefarious, some based on misunderstandings, and some for a combination of reasons. Send police to several million homes to demand people’s guns and it won’t go smoothly.
“Whose blood would be shed?” Is there an acceptable amount? How many Americans should be shot and killed while their homes are raided to take their guns? How many cops should be killed trying to force these seizures?
Eric Swalwell is almost certainly not going to be President. Perhaps if all of the other candidates were eaten by a dragon, then maybe, maybe he has a chance. (You know we’d probably end up with President Oprah at that point.)
The name recognition issue alone knocks him out of contention, which is perhaps why he’s the latest Democrat to float this kind of outlandish proposal (“wouldn’t it be great if we could just wish all the guns away?”) to try to entice the spotlight his way. His only possible impact on this race is granting talking points to Republicans who want to brand their Democratic opponents as gun control extremists. The Trump 2020 re-election campaign should send him a thank you note.
Foliow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.