On Sunday, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who recently declared his candidacy for president, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.” During the segment, host Jake Tapper asked Swalwell about his signature issue — gun control.
TAPPER: So, gun control is the central plank in your campaign. You wrote last year: “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.”
Criminal prosecution for keeping assault weapons. What’s the punishment for people who don’t hand in their guns? Do they go to jail?
SWALWELL: Well, Jake, they would, but I also offer an alternative, which would be to keep them at a hunting club or a shooting range.
And the reason I have proposed this is because these weapons are so devastating. I have seen this as a prosecutor in the cases that I have prosecuted. We have seen these in the school shootings, from Sandy Hook to Parkland…
But it’s not just the violence that they have caused. It’s the fear, the immeasurable fear, that our children live in, because they are still on our streets. I want to get rid of that fear. I want to do what Australia did and New Zealand just recently did. I think this issue just needs some bold leadership to do it.
Tapper then noted that the majority of shooting deaths do not involve semi-automatic rifles.
TAPPER: I know you know this, but the vast majority of gun-related deaths in this country are not related to these semiautomatic assault weapons — whatever you want to call them — and the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who have purchased these weapons legally and use them safely.
One of the most frequent attacks on this issue from President Trump and the Republicans is that Democrats want to take away your guns. But isn’t it fair to say you actually do want to take away people’s guns?
SWALWELL: You know, keep your pistols, keep your long rifles, keep your shotguns. I want the most dangerous weapons, these weapons of war, out of the hands of the most dangerous people.
Tapper is correct when he states that “the vast majority of gun-related deaths in this country are not related to these semiautomatic assault weapons.”
According to Uniform Crime Reporting data from the FBI, between 2010 and 2014, there were approximately 43,002 murders in the United States in which firearms were the weapon of choice. 70% (30,114) of the firearms used were handguns, while 3.6% (1,530) were rifles.
Even if one takes the 21.5% (9,228) of gun deaths that were committed using unclassified firearms, assumes that half of them were rifles (a very generous assumption given the statistics), and adds that to the 3.6% of gun deaths in which rifles were identified as the weapon used, that still amounts to just over a quarter (25.1%) of total firearm murders in the United States.
For context, 5.3 times as many people (8,109) are murdered in the United States with “knives or cutting instruments” than with rifles, and 2.3 times as many people (3,574) are murdered in the United States with “hands, fists, [and] feet” than with rifles, according to FBI data.