Swalwell kicks off campaign discussing gun control: 'This issue comes first'

Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate 5 takeaways from fiery Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.) kicked off his presidential campaign with a town hall on gun control in Florida on Tuesday, a day after announcing his bid to join the crowded Democratic presidential field.

Speaking in South Florida just miles away from Parkland, the site of a mass shooting at a high school last year that killed 17 people, Swalwell promised that while he would campaign on other issues, his focus would remain on implementing stricter gun control measures.

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“My pledge to you tonight is that this issue comes first. And until it comes first, we’re not going to end gun violence,” he said, adding that he made a point of visiting South Florida rather than Iowa or New Hampshire, which are early voting states, for his first campaign stop to discuss the issue.

The candidate was introduced at the event by Parkland survivor Cameron Kasky, who emerged as a vocal advocate for gun control after the 2018 shooting and referred to the congressman as "my friend." Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland shooting, also came to support Swalwell.

Swalwell, 38, is jumping into a crowded field of Democrats vying for the party's nomination next year, a group that already has over a dozen candidates, many of whom have larger war chests and higher name recognition.

The California lawmaker touted a litany of Democratic priorities he supports on guns, including banning assault rifles, implementing universal background checks, implementing a national standard for gun ownership, and taking away firearms from people with mental illnesses or a history of domestic abuse. 

He also pushed back on Republican initiatives to combat mass shootings, such as arming teachers and other employees at schools and churches, saying more guns would not solve the issue.

“We’re not going to be a country that arms teachers, that arms rabbis or that arms bartenders,” he said. “The solution to this crisis is leadership.”

Swalwell maintained that his policies would not take away any firearms from gun owners. He also floated a buyback program for assault rifles, saying $1,000 would be offered per firearm and that it could take as many as 15 million guns off the streets.