On Monday, Eric Swalwell became the first of the many pretenders for the Democrat presidential nomination to bow (or perhaps slink) out of the race. The U.S. Congressman from California’s 15th District had tried to distinguish himself from the field by putting extreme gun control front and center in his messaging. The result was a campaign that lasted only four months and that relegated the 38-year-old lawmaker to obscurity.
Swalwell did gain a measure of infamy among gun owners last year with an op-ed in USA Today that suggested not only banning AR-15s and other popular semi-automatic rifles but forcing those who had previously obtained them lawfully to surrender them to the government. He called this scheme a “buyback” because compliance would be encouraged by offering a bureaucratically determined bounty (perhaps as low as $200, he suggested) for each relinquished gun.
But he also made it clear the proposition was an offer gun owners could not refuse, writing: “we should criminally prosecute any who choose to defy [the ban] by keeping their weapons.”
Banning America’s most popular centerfire rifle and making criminals out of otherwise law-abiding gun owners who refused to turn them over was hardly a modest proposal, and Swalwell admitted his plan could require the government to round up some 15 million guns.
But Swalwell went even further than that in a testy Twitter exchange with another user who commented that an attempt to repeal the Second Amendment and ban and seize guns could provoke a war. “And it would be a short war my friend,” Swalwell replied. “The government has nukes. Too many of them. But they’re legit.” He added, “I’m sure if we talked we could find common ground to protect our families and communities.”
Faced with the inevitable backlash for suggesting that nuclear weapons could be used against his own countrymen to enforce gun confiscation, Swalwell backpedaled. First he claimed that he was merely pointing out how “ludicrous” it would be for gun owners to rise up against the government in the event of an “assault weapons” ban. Later, he insisted his comments were meant as a “joke” and “sarcasm.”
Yet Swalwell was not chastened by the incident and went on to make his plan to ban and force the surrender of AR-15s and like firearms the centerpiece of his primary campaign. In a town hall meeting on gun control the day after launching his bid, he assured the crowd: “My pledge to you tonight is that this issue comes first.”
And while he dropped further talk of America’s nuclear arsenal, he did admit those who refused to surrender their firearms would go to jail under his plan.
This platform, to no one’s surprise, failed to capture America’s imagination … or, for that matter, its interest or attention.
The low point of Swalwell’s brief campaign, however, came on the day he surely hoped would propel him to national prominence.
Swalwell had boasted to the press, “I’m taking the battle to the NRA’s doorstep with a new, broader package of commonsense reforms to end gun violence.”
His plan was to unveil his presidential gun control agenda in a dramatic press conference in front of the NRA’s Fairfax, Virginia headquarters. That June “event” instead proved to be an embarrassing failure, with the “crowd” topping out at 18 people, including the staffers and supporters that Swalwell brought with him.
Adding insult to injury, the day of Swalwell’s gun control press conference happened to be the same day that President Trump announced his reelection campaign to a packed house at the 20,000 seat Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. His promise to protect the right to keep and bear arms drew raucous cheers from the crowd (see this video at 1:34:53).
Swalwell’s “package of reforms” certainly cemented his role as the leading proponent of extreme gun control in what is already an anti-gun Democrat field. Besides the promised semi-auto ban, it included:
- a mandatory 48-hour waiting period to take possession of a purchased gun (including, apparently, for those who already own guns);
- a ban on the private sale of firearms;
- federal licensing and mandatory training to obtain a firearm;
- a nationwide registry of every firearm, firearm owner, and firearm transaction in America;
- rationing of the purchase of handguns and ammunition; and
- a cap on the amount of ammunition that individuals may possess at any one time to 200 rounds per caliber or gauge.
And that’s only a partial list. The overall affect of the plan would have been to turn the right to own a firearm in America into an expensive, time-consuming, bureaucratic, and impractical privilege.
Fortunately, Swalwell will not be in a position to pursue that plan from the White House, nor will he exercise authority over America’s nuclear arsenal as commander-in-chief.
After the first Democratic presidential debate, our polling and fundraising numbers weren’t what we had hoped for,” he said in announcing the end of his campaign, “and I no longer see a path forward to the nomination.”
Congressman Eric Swalwell set out to gain the presidency so he could take away the favored rifle of law-abiding American patriots.
Yet his most lasting contribution to American politics will be demonstrating once again the fate that awaits those who would attempt to disarm a freedom-loving people.