Today, Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15), a member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, introduced the Freedom from Assault Weapons Act, to ban assault weapons and require the government to buy them back, removing them once and for all from American communities.
"Weapons of war have no place in our communities," said Swalwell. "They are designed to cause the most loss of life in the shortest amount of time, something we've seen over and over from our children's schools to every faith's house of worship.
The U.S. has seen a rash of mass shootings involving assault weapons in recent years, in places like Parkland, FL, Las Vegas, NV, Orlando, FL, and Newtown, CT. These weapons are essentially civilian versions of military firearms. There are millions of such firearms in U.S. circulation, with estimates ranging from 8.5 to 20 million.
The Freedom from Assault Weapons Act builds upon assault-weapon bans that have been introduced previously in Congress, defining assault weapons in the same way. But Swalwell's legislation would not "grandfather in" weapons already in circulation; instead, following enactment and a period in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) would develop a price, ATF would buy back the banned guns from people or businesses. All guns bought back would be destroyed.
Owners would have two years in which to sell their weapons in the buyback program; after that, the possession, sale, and transfer of these banned assault weapons would become illegal and subject to criminal prosecution. The bill contains exceptions for law enforcement and possessing them at hunting/shooting clubs.
"We know part of the answer for ending mass shootings is to make it much less likely people can obtain and use assault weapons," Swalwell said. "My Freedom from Assault Weapons Act would do that. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bill, to continuing to stand up to the NRA, and to speaking for those who value a person's right to live over all."
Australia had great success with a similar buyback program. In 1996, following a mass shooting in Port Arthur, that nation's government enacted comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation including a ban and buyback program for assault weapons. Australia had suffered 13 mass shootings in the 18 years before this buyback; in the years since, it has suffered only one.