On Friday, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) appeared on CNN. During his segment, anchor Kate Bolduan asked the representative about gun control, specifically noting Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-CA) recent op-ed in which he suggests banning semi-automatic rifles, and prosecuting those who refuse to turn them over.
BALDUAN: Let me ask you this, [because] you lay out some of the regulations that you support and many Americans support, but we also have fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell, for example, he's from California. He put out an op-ed yesterday arguing for reinstating the assault weapons ban. But it was not just that. He went quite a bit further, and he said that what he also wants is, "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." So when gun rights advocates say Democrats just want to take away your guns, are they now right?
DEUTCH: Listen, there are gun buyback programs that exist in some communities, and if people choose to turn in their guns, certainly law enforcement is working with them to do that. I think what we ought to do and what the NRA always refuses –
BALDUAN: But is Swalwell going a step too far when he says that people should be held criminally responsible if they don't turn over their weapons?
DEUTCH: Well, I think what's important is to stop the production of weapons of war that don't belong on our streets...just remember this, it was just about 90 years ago also on Valentine's Day that a massacre in Chicago led Congress to say we can't have all these machine guns on our streets. No one has questioned that decision. Now it was another massacre on Valentine's Day here in Parkland that should prompt Congress to say we can't have all these assault weapons on our streets.
No one's complained about that law. Let's treat these assault weapons the same way we treat machine guns. That ought to be something that everyone can get behind. No more manufacture. Let's get them out of our communities.
There are two primary problems with Deutch’s comments. First, he flatly refuses to answer Balduan’s question about supporting Rep. Swalwell’s gun confiscation idea, which could lead viewers to believe that he does indeed agree with Swalwell on the issue.
Second, Deutch states: "No more manufacture. Let's get them out of our communities." This is incredibly reductive.
Stopping the manufacturing of semi-automatic rifles wouldn’t "get them out of our communities," as Deutch indicates. While it’s impossible to know how many semi-automatic rifles are in circulation because there isn’t a national registry, "the NRA estimates that between 8.5 million and 15 million assault rifles are in circulation based on manufacturer data," reports McClatchy.
If lawmakers in Washington, D.C. passed a manufacturing ban of all semi-automatic rifles, there would still be millions in circulation. Even if lawmakers instituted a buyback, it’s outside the realm of possibility that every American who owns a semi-automatic rifle would participate.
When Australia instituted its buyback in 1996, the government recovered approximately 650,000 guns — an estimated one-sixth of the nation’s "assault weapons" stock.
In order to get semi-automatic rifles "out of our communities," the government would have to order a mandatory confiscation program. Such a program would be impractical, incredibly expensive, and likely dangerous. It would require law enforcement authorities to walk door to door, and forcibly gather firearms from otherwise law-abiding Americans who decided not to hand over their legally purchased firearms.
Deutch acts as though discontinuing the manufacture of semi-automatic rifles would solve the problem. He’s either being naive or disingenuous because if one simply takes his idea to its logical conclusion, much more would be required to rid America of so-called assault weapons.