By Ward Kanowsky
Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) held a standing room only town hall meeting dedicated solely to the issue of gun violence at Hayward City Hall on August 7, 2019. During his opening comments at the “Community Forum on Ending Gun Violence & Domestic Terrorism,” Swalwell said he had just met with the heads of various law enforcement agencies, including local police departments, state operations, and the FBI, to discuss the threat assessment of gun violence primarily from white nationalist organizations, and the readiness of law enforcement. The feedback he received is that the threat level is high; he also has confidence that first responders in the law enforcement community are ready in the event of another shooting.
Notwithstanding this confidence, Swalwell emphasized that Congress needs to respond legislatively, and it needs to do so in the short term. Most importantly, he said that the background checks bill (H.R. 1112), which has passed the House, must be voted on by the Senate now, even if that means calling the entire body back into session from the current recess. (Read our recent article on this issue, with a call to action, here.) In response to a question from the audience about Senator Mitch McConnell blocking any efforts for such a vote, Swalwell called on one of the Senators now running for president to stand up and filibuster for a vote.
Other steps Rep. Swalwell urged to address ongoing gun violence are changes to laws on domestic terrorism and banning and buying back the 15 million assault weapons now in the hands of Americans. He noted that, with the recent tragedies in El Paso and Dayton and the NRA being “on the ropes,” the ban/buyback proposal continues to gain traction among the Democratic presidential candidates: former VP Joe Biden, Senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg are all open to or have come out in support of such a program. [Editor’s note: see this August 10 ABC News article for more information about where the 2020 Democratic candidates stand on gun control; and Politico’s web page, currently updated to August 14, with candidates’ views on gun control].
During the hour-plus Q&A session, constituents and others were able to express their views and concerns on the issue of gun violence and offer additional ideas for reducing the number of shootings. A teacher bluntly stated that ”more kids are afraid of dying at school.” Swalwell acknowledged these fears and reiterated the importance of getting guns off the streets, as opposed to proposals like arming teachers that would make a bad situation worse. A student from Baylor University in Texas proposed raising the minimum age to buy guns, while another attendee suggested a federal tax on firearms. Swalwell was open to both of these ideas. In response to one constituent’s proposal that the Second Amendment be repealed, Swalwell disagreed, and said we need to do a better job of interpreting the Amendment.
Addressing gun violence was the signature issue of Swalwell’s brief run for president and it remains a top priority for him as a member of Congress.
If you have questions or want to participate with the CA-15 team, contact Ward on Slack at @ward or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.
Photograph of Rep. Swalwell by LeAnn Kanowsky