- Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell is placing his bets on gun reform as a winning issue that will help him stand out from the pack.
- Swalwell, unlike any other candidate in the 2020 field, is explicitly focusing his campaign on reducing gun violence and presenting more detailed gun restrictions than many of the other candidates.
- Swalwell supports both a ban on assault weapons and a mandatory buy-back program that actively removes such weapons from their current owners as well as banning future weapons from being sold.
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On Monday, three-term California Congressman Eric Swalwell became the 18th Democrat to announce a run for president in 2020 – and he’s placing his bets on gun reform as a winning issue that will help him stand out from the pack.
At 38 years old, Swalwell is one of the youngest candidates in the field along with Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, both 37.
Many people their age and younger were teenagers during the Columbine and Virginia Tech mass shootings, and as Buttigieg has phrased it on multiple occasions, are “part of the “school shooting generation.”
But Swalwell, unlike any other candidate in the 2020 field, is explicitly focusing his campaign on reducing gun violence and is presenting more detailed and far-reaching gun restrictions than many of the other candidates.
As Swalwell has tested the waters for his presidential bid over the past few months, he’s teamed up with student activists working on gun control, including March for Our Lives co-founder and school shooting survivor Cameron Kasky, with whom he is hosting a sold-out town hall in Florida on Tuesday.
As ThinkProgress recently pointed out, previous Democratic nominees like Hillary Clinton in 2016 have supported gun control, but Clinton’s policy platform mainly included policies that already enjoy wide support, such as implementing universal background checks and eliminating the so-called gun show loophole.
While many Democratic politicians now support banning semi-automatic weapons, Swalwell wants to go a step further than most and actively remove such weapons from their current owners, as well as banning future weapons from being sold.
“Last year I wrote a bill calling for a buyback and ban on assault weapons – not just to ban future manufacturing, but to just take the 15 million that are out there and buy them back,” Swalwell explained in a recent interview with Esquire’s Ryan Lizza, citing what he views as successful buyback programs in Australia and New Zealand as evidence weapons buybacks work.
While some groups like the National Rifle Association strongly oppose assault weapons bans and argue that buyback programs are ineffective, Swalwell argues there is broad support for such measures that far outweighs the vocal opposition, calling the National Rifle Association “a paper tiger.”
“They have us in fear that [if you support] any limitation on firearms, you would be in a position that the overwhelming majority of the country is against you. And I’ve just come to find out that’s not the case at all,” Swalwell told Esquire.
According to 2018 data from the Pew Research Center, 80% of self-identified Democrats support stricter regulations on firearms – and Swalwell’s campaign could test whether reducing gun violence can not only unite, but mobilize and turn out Democratic voters.
Similarly to how Washington Governor Jay Inslee is hoping to mobilize a coalition of voters and donors around the issue of combatting climate change, Swalwell is hoping his message will inspire and turn out a winning coalition of young voters who lived in fear of violence in their schools, parents, educators, and other groups affected by gun violence.
“It’s bold and will cost money, but it is constitutional and it rightly treats gun violence as a life-or-death matter,” Swalwell wrote of his proposed assault weapons ban and buyback in Monday a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed. “Our children deserve better than an attempt to reduce or contain gun violence. Our goal must be to end it.”