A Democratic congressman has called for the seizure of all “military-style semiautomatic assault weapons” and the prosecution of all of those who refuse to do so.
In a USA Today op-ed entitled “Ban assault weapons, buy them back, go after resisters,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., argued Thursday that prior proposals to ban assault weapons “would leave millions of assault weapons in our communities for decades to come.”
The first question is what counts as an “assault weapon”? The trouble all starts here. There’s no technical definition of an “assault weapon.” There are fully automatic weapons, which fire continuously when the trigger is held down. Those have been strictly regulated since 1934. Then there are semiautomatic weapons that reload automatically but fire only once each time the trigger is depressed. Semiautomatic pistols and rifles come in all shapes and sizes and are extremely common in the United States.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation the definition of an assault rifle is:
An assault rifle is fully automatic — a machine gun. Automatic firearms have been severely restricted from civilian ownership since 1934.
Well when Congress was debating the 1994 Assault Weapons ban they didn’t want to ban all semiautomatic weapons, why because that would ban most guns, period. So, in crafting the 1994 ban, lawmakers mainly focused on 18 specific firearms, as well as certain military-type features on guns. Complicated flow charts laid it all out. Certain models of AR-15s and AK-47s were banned. Any semiautomatic rifle with a pistol grip and a bayonet mount was an “assault weapon.” But a semiautomatic rifle with just a pistol grip might be okay.
He called to do more than just reinstate the federal “assault” weapons ban because that would only prevent the new sale of “assault” weapons.
“Reinstating the federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 would prohibit manufacture and sales, but it would not affect weapons already possessed,” Swalwell wrote. “This would leave millions of assault weapons in our communities for decades to come.”
“Instead, we should ban possession of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons, we should buy back such weapons from all who choose to abide by the law, and we should criminally prosecute any who choose to defy it by keeping their weapons,” Swalwell wrote.
Swalwell said that he and other Democrats should be following the lead of the survivors of the Parkland shooting.
“There’s something new and different about the surviving Parkland high schoolers’ demands,” he wrote. “They dismiss the moral equivalence we’ve made for far too long regarding the Second Amendment. I’ve been guilty of it myself, telling constituents and reporters that ‘we can protect the Second Amendment and protect lives.’”
“The Parkland teens have taught us there is no right more important than every student’s right to come home after class,” Swalwell added. “The right to live is supreme over any other.”
Swalwell pointed out that his plan would be similar to Australia’s buy-back program.
“Based on manufacturing figures and other indirect data, there could be 15 million assault weapons out there,” he wrote. “If we offer $200 to buy back each weapon — as many local governments have — then it would cost about $3 billion; at $1,000 each, the cost would be about $15 billion.”