Swalwell for America
June 18, 2019


DUBLIN, CA – 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Congressman Eric Swalwell held a news conference Monday outside the National Rifle Association’s headquarters in Fairfax, VA, to unveil his new, broader framework for ending the gun violence that claiming thousands of American lives each year.

Joined by almost a dozen gun violence survivors, activists and experts from across the nation, Swalwell described a plan to:

  • Ban and buy back semiautomatic assault weapons
  • Invest in hope in communities suffering from divestment
  • Tackle America’s suicide by firearm epidemic
  • Protect victims of domestic violence
  • Mitigate and prevent mass shootings
  • Close loopholes surrounding all sales of firearms and ammunition
  • Invest in gun violence research and community-centered health care
  • Regulate gun and ammunition manufacturers
Read Swalwell's comprehensive national framework to end gun violence here:

, 38, who announced his candidacy for President of the United States in April, is the only 2020 candidate making gun violence the top policy priority, and the only 2020 candidate proposing not only an assault-weapons ban but also a mandatory national buyback. In recent weeks he has conducted a national gun violence listening tour, meeting with community members and experts in cities including Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Chicago, Baltimore, Houston, and Las Vegas, and held town hall meetings near Parkland, FL and in Fairfield, IA.
A transcript of Swalwell’s remarks follows:
Thank you to each of the participants here today.  They’ve each been touched tragically by their work or what they fear could happen to their kids by this issue, and just happen to believe we don’t have to live this way.  If we get this right in the White House and with the next Congress, we won’t. 

So I want to tell you what our plan does.

First, we start, we look at this through the life cycle of a firearm and where we ultimately hope it’s used—for sport, for hunting, and in the worst imaginable cases, protecting yourself if necessary.  There’s nothing that we propose here today that is at odds with what this organization claims they stand for.  Keep your pistols, keep your rifles, keep your shotguns.  But we happen to believe that we can do more to take the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people.

Starting with what weapons are manufactured and who’s responsible when a dangerous weapon is put into our streets.  We want to lift the shield of liability that is put in place today and protects manufacturers from having any responsibility when their weapons are used because of either a design fault or something they put on a weapon that makes us less safe.

We also believe that it is time to ban and buyback every single assault weapon, making sure first and foremost no more assault weapons are manufactured in the future, but also with a plan to buy back the 15 million that are in circulation in our communities today.  Now, I understand some would say, “Well, let’s just ban the future sales and manufacture of assault weapons.”  But that does nothing to address what could still threaten us in our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, or anywhere that we may gather.

And it’s nothing that has not been done before. Australia, after its own mass shooting, banned and bought back assault weapons.  New Zealand is moving to do that now.  We don’t lack the ability to do it.  But for a long time we’ve just lacked the courage.  This is a moment to seize. 

At the point of sale for a firearm: first, we believe any person who purchases a firearm should have to undergo a licensing procedure.  Gun ownership is a right, but it is a right that comes with responsibilities.  Just like you get a permit in many places to hunt and in every state to drive, we think you need a license if you’re gonna buy a firearm. 

We also put in place additional restrictions at the point of sale on ammunition as well as requiring insurance.  Insurance so that we can know and insurance companies can mitigate against the risk and be responsible as well if a gun ends up in dangerous hands and make sure that a family could be held and made whole, or at least in part, if a tragedy comes to them or in their communities

We also believe every person that buys a firearm should go through a background check.  Not just at a dealership, but at a gun-show, and private seller to private buyer.  Then there’s those life-changing instances, those flash-points that happen, where we need the government to intervene and make sure that a dangerous person doesn’t have a firearm like a mental health event or an instance of domestic violence.  So we’ve created red-flag intervention opportunities so that our law enforcement could protect a victim of domestic violence from a firearm that may be in the house.

The only way we can do that though, and I learned this from Sonia [Corrales, Chief Program Officer of the Houston Area Women’s Center], is if we know more.  That means having a national firearms database.  That is not too much to ask, and that would only be used to protect all of us.

Our plan also addresses what Ed Haynes [member of Miami’s “The Hunger 9”] was referring to.  When the trigger is pulled because an individual has resorted to what Ed told me in Parkland is the lowest form of communication: violence.  I’ve seen in too many of our cities that when you have poor schools or the kids don’t feel safe going to school—and Tamar [Manasseh, founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK) in Chicago], you told me that’s too often the case, they just don’t go to school because they don’t feel safe going to school—when all you have are payday lenders and liquor stores around, and a lack of access to healthcare, and no grocery stores so you have access to any food of any nutritional value, you can imagine what happens. 

That is a different cause of violence than a mass shooting and requires different solutions.  It doesn’t require a crime bill, it requires a hope bill that invests in education, and jobs, access to healthcare. 

I saw it best on the south side of Chicago when Tamar told me, “You look at these issues too often like they’re just murders.  They’re also suicides.”  And I asked her, “What do you mean?” She said the person pulling the trigger wants to die.  “They’re not gonna take their own life, but when you look around,” she said, “and you’re hungry, you’re looking over your shoulder because you’re scared, you don’t know where you’re going to sleep that night, you know you’re gonna be retaliated against if you shoot someone else.”  And she said to me, “Who would want to live in conditions like this? Who would want to live to be 30 years old?”  We need to restore hope in America’s cities so people don’t resort to the lowest form of communication: violence.

For mental health, we increase resources by decentralizing resources.  Believing that it’s not just a veteran going to the VA, but that our schools, and our firehouses, our communities of worship, and our nonprofit organizations need more community development block grants to serve a mental health population in need, and that students and teachers can be trained to identify this, as the Sandy Hook Promise is working on, and which we can continue to fund through Congress.

If we do all of that, we can go a lot farther to reduce the gun violence that we see in America today.  I have lost hope though.  I went to Congress when Sandy Hook happened, and I was horrified, but I thought I would be a part of a place that would do something.  Nothing.  Then there was Charleston.  Nothing.  San Bernadino.  Nothing.  Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and every day in between, shootings in Baltimore, and Chicago, and Houston.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.

But something changed at Parkland.  Hope died there, but in a uniquely American way owing to the strength and courage of the students and their parents, it was reborn.  And it’s brought us to this moment here, where we are determined to make ending gun violence a top-tier issue in this Presidential campaign, and a belief that we no longer have to negotiate down against the NRA, that we can start negotiating up.  That the ceiling is not banning bump stocks, that the ceiling is not background checks, that the ceiling is not the crazy idea that if you’re on the terrorist watch list you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.  That’s now the floor.  The ceiling is doing anything it takes to tell Americans that your right to hug your kid, to pray at your church, your synagogue, your mosque, to dance at a concert, laugh at a theatre, to just love each other is greater than any other right in our country.  Period.  And we’re going to do something about it.

For too long, the NRA has been out of step not just with America, but with its own members, 70% of whom want background checks, all of whom fear about the safety of their own kids.  But here’s the tactic they use: they use a vocal, Tweeting, bullying minority to tell politicians and lawmakers, “Don’t touch this issue.  It’s a hot issue, you’ll pay a price for it.”  I’m here to tell you, you will pay a price if you don’t stand up and keep the people behind me and keep the people they care about safe.

That’s the price that’s gonna be paid from now on. Enough is enough.  We can end gun violence in America and it begins now.  Happy to take any questions.
Q: How would you enforce banning and buying back assault weapons?

The question was about banning and buying back assault weapons, how would you enforce it?  So, there will be a window for people to sell their weapon to the government.  We’ll pay market rate for it.  I think that will still be less than the cost of loss that a community suffers because of a mass shooting.  Just like anything else that’s banned, like a fully-automatic weapon or a rocket-propelled grenade launcher or any other contraband in America, if you have it there will be a criminal penalty, but there’s not going to be any national roundup.  It’s going to be banned and I trust that the American people by and large are law abiding people and they’ll sell back their guns.  Or, there is an exception, you can keep your assault weapon at a shooting range or a hunting range.
Q: If elected, how would you work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress to pass this framework or is it solely through executive actions?

Republican parents, Democratic parents, all parents want to see their kids safe in school.  We now are in a gun safety majority in America where this last election, in places like Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, we beat NRA-endorsed Members of Congress.  To Republicans I would say, you don’t have to be afraid to do the right thing.  People are being elected and beating your members because they are standing up to do the right thing so I’m gonna really lead with the momentum I see right now.  The will of passing a bill with Congress and the President working together is much stronger than executive action and I’ll seek to do that first.  Again, I just trust that the wind is at our back right now and that is a strong wind of moms, students, and people in their communities who care.
Q: How much will the plan potentially cost and how do you plan to pay for it?

The question was how much will the plan cost.  A lot less than the cost of loss to our communities.  People say, “Well, this is a single issue, gun violence.  Do you really want to run for President on a single issue?”  It’s not a single issue.  Gun violence is a healthcare crisis.  Gun violence, as Ed [Haynes] pointed out, is an educational crisis.  Gun violence is a mental health crisis in America.  I will fund the government in a different way than the current administration.  We’re going to repeal the tax cuts where 83% of the benefits went to 1% of Americans.  We’re going to spend less on nuclear weapons.  We’re gonna spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years.  We’re gonna reduce that budget and have a strength through the alliances we seek and the peace treaties and nuclear treaties we go into.  Through the savings there, the health, education, and safety of the American people will always come first and we’ll be able to fund these very important community priorities.
Q: Does anywhere in your plan to end gun violence have to do with working with the police
department or law enforcement or trying to do something along those lines as well?

Our plan calls for an increase in community-oriented police officers, a belief that communities that are suffering from gun violence don’t need more patrol officers, they need more officers who walk the community beat who are involved in the police athletic league.  I can tell you as a brother to two police officers, one of them is a police activity league police officer.  I see firsthand the benefits of having those resources in the community.  We also increase the gang violence prevention programs that communities can compete for, again trying to divert kids and show them positive role models in their lives away from violence.  That’s also a part of what Ashley’s studies show that if you can connect people who have been in gang violence before to the current generation of young people coming up and they can talk about the mistakes they made, just those relationships can go a long way.  It’s really funding positive relationships and increasing the relationship of trust between a police officer and a community they patrol so it’s not only seen as we see the police officer when we call 9-1-1 or when they’re pulling somebody over but we get to know them because they walk the beat, they live the life in our community.
Q: What is your message to the NRA members?

To the NRA members I tell you that your leadership is not representing you.  70 percent of you want background checks, every single one of us want background checks.  Your leadership which is mired in corruption right now, which will probably bring down the organization, is not representing you when they allow us to go shooting to shooting and tell us that we’re only allowed to grieve, but we’re not allowed to act.  We are allowed to act and in that action, we will do nothing that limits your right to own a pistol, to own a long rifle, or to own a shotgun.  All of those rights will still be bestowed and enjoyed for every American, but we’re going to be a hell of a lot safer starting now.
Q: What do you expect from the Reparations hearing in Congress and what does Reparations look like in a concrete, tangible form?

Slavery was, and is, the original sin in our country.  When I go to communities like Baltimore and Chicago, I see the effects of slavery that there are still communities that are suffering.  We need to do something to make those communities whole.  We need to invest in them immediately in jobs, education, and healthcare, and reduce the gun violence there.  I support having a Reparations commission to find out what else we can do and I’m glad Congress is having that conversation.  I would sign that commission into law immediately.

So I’m gonna wrap up by just saying this.  On this tour I visited Philadelphia and I visited a trauma counselor, someone who had worked side-by-side with people like Dr. Joe [Sakran, a gun violence survivor and trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medicine].  He said he’s counseled 7,000 families so far in just the last 14 years on this job.  7,000 families affected by gun violence.  I asked Mr. Charles, Scott Charles [of Temple University Health System], the trauma counselor, “What is one thing that you would do that would make the biggest difference?” And he said, “Oh, we’re already trying to do it.”  I thought, “Oh, is it background checks, assault weapons ban, mental health funding?”  He said, “No, I put a tourniquet on all the blocks where data shows us we have the most shootings, and we would train the people from the Chinese store owners to the liquor store owners how to use those tourniquets to save more lives, so when they get to the trauma surgeon, they have a chance.  Mr. Charles did not have a failure of imagination to think of bigger solutions.  He just believed that Washington had a failure of will to bring them.  We face this crossroads right now: do we want to stop the bleeding or do we want to stop the shootings?  The people behind me, they believe we have a chance to stop the shootings, and I’m with them.  Thank you.