May 4, 2018
California Congressman Wants to Take Guns Away
In a recent USA Today opinion piece, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell makes an emotion-based argument for banning and confiscating modern sporting rifles from law-abiding citizens.
As the firearms and ammunition industry trade association, we respectfully disagree. His plea for a ban on even the possession of modern sporting rifles runs counter to decades of research showing it would not help to reduce the violent misuse of firearms by criminals. The only ones who lose in his policy dream are law-abiding gun owners and the taxpayers on the hook to fund his useless buyback scheme.
Before getting into the myriad reasons Rep. Swalwell’s naïve idea would fail to accomplish his objective, let’s look at his background. Before winning his Congressional seat at 32 in 2012, he spent a handful of years prosecuting criminals in California and sat on the City Council in his hometown. It’s understandable that with career experience as only a prosecutor or a politician, everyone looks like a criminal. Perhaps if he had some background working for a federally licensed firearm retailer or a gun range, he would understand that there are legal, legitimate, healthy and constitutionally-protected reasons to own a firearm.
What This Ex-Prosecutor Misses
It is odd that a former prosecutor would not understand that the deliberate lack of prosecutions for gun crimes under the Obama Administration left far too many firearms illegally in the hands of those already prohibited by law from possessing them. Of course, Rep. Swalwell also doesn’t want the federal government enforcing the ban on marijuana, so it’s safe to say he cherry-picks which federal laws are worth enforcing, based on popular opinion.
America does have policy problems that require “boldness”, as he suggests, but we would urge him to not mistake a gun ban for a solution. Taking away firearms from law-abiding citizens who own guns for self-protection or sport will NOT reduce crime. As a former prosecutor, he of all people should know that criminals do not abide by the law. In fact, his opinion piece uses an anecdote about a sawed-off shotgun used by a criminal. The irony here is that those are already illegal, yet the criminal managed to get ahold of it anyway. Rather than being a rallying cry for banning certain types of firearms, this anecdote perfectly illustrates the reason gun control laws do not work. They restrict only the behavior of those willing to follow the law.
Taxpayer Funded Buy-Back?
He then goes on to demonize semi-automatic rifles as “assault weapons.” Wrong again. Modern sporting rifles are not “weapons designed for war.” They are among the most popular firearm sold today and are rarely used in crime. Reinstating the failed Clinton-era assault weapon ban and prohibiting certain firearms based on their cosmetic features is silly. We know from research conducted by the CDC and others that it didn’t work. In fact, violent crime was higher during the ban than after it lapsed.
As if a ban on modern sporting rifles were not bad enough, Rep. Swalwell doubles down on bad ideas by calling for a massive, taxpayer-funded, gun buy-back program. Leaders on all sides of the gun control debate have acknowledged that gun buyback programs are ineffective. Even the anti-Second Amendment Obama Administration called buybacks ineffective in its National Institute of Justice memo. It’s no surprise that 82 percent of law enforcement professionals rate them as ineffective in reducing violent crime.
The Australian Mistake
However, he takes the piece one step closer to insanity by calling for a ban on firearms already in possession, arguing that Australia “got it right.” Without mentioning that the gun ban in Australia didn’t work, he instead focuses on the cost of the program. What’s missing in the piece is any evidence that this would have any impact on the violent misuse of firearms in the U.S.
America doesn’t need another expensive public relations stunt based on emotions, not facts. Fortunately, there are programs that actually work, such as Don’t Lie for the Other Guy or Project ChildSafe; both initiatives of the firearms industry that coordinate with law enforcement to help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and unauthorized individuals. We would encourage members of Congress and those in law enforcement to look to programs like these, with track records of success, rather than wasting time and money on symbolic gun buybacks and further restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens.