Presidential hopeful Eric Swalwell on gun safety, housing, and impeachment

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Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) speaks during the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco, California, June 1, 2019. Credit: REUTERS/Stephen Lam.

Eric Swalwell, a Democratic Congressman from California, is centering his presidential campaign on gun safety.

He's proposing a ban on military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, plus a federal buyback program for every assault weapon in the US.

He also wants to focus on youth mental health. "Children are telling me, across the country, that they are paralyzed with fear in their classrooms. And they're afraid of an assault weapon being used in a shooting. So we can reduce the amount of deaths from assault weapons, but also reduce the fear that our kids have as they're being asked to learn and prepare for the future," he tells Press Play.

He estimates that the ban and buyback program would cost $15-20 billion, which could come out of the military budget.

"We don't have to spend as much as we do on nuclear weapons. We're spending a trillion dollars over 30 years on nuclear weapons…I would also reduce what we're spending on new aircraft carriers and fighter jets, and seek strength through alliances as well as nuclear and arms treaties," he says.

When it comes to handguns (which are more common in homicides, domestic abuse, and other sorts of violent crimes), Swalwell says he supports universal background checks, laws ensuring that guns are stored responsibility so they aren't stolen and put into the streets, plus investments in gang violence prevention programs.

But is Swalwell taking a political risk by focusing so much on guns while polling shows voters are more concerned about the economy, health care, and even impeachment?

"I believe the only way that we can reverse this trend of mass shootings and end the violence that we see across America is if we have a president who says this is going to be a top priority," Swalwell says. "But I do believe that recent polling shows that this is a top three issue -- being safe in a community."

Housing and homelessness

Swalwell says homelessness is rooted in mental health issues and failure to properly treat them. "As a former city councilman, I saw that we are best able to address those needs when we increased the community development block grant program, so that local cities and towns could distribute those resources where they are needed."

He says it's also a matter of having jobs available (especially for veterans) and affordable housing. "The president's tax cut has reduced the amount of investment in affordable housing, because by lowering the overall tax rate, it's disincentivized people to invest in affordable housing where they would get a tax credit. So I would I would put back in place the original tax rates, and continue to incentivize investments in affordable housing."

In California, Senate Bill 50 called for more housing along transit corridors and other places where there isn't traditionally dense housing. The bill is stalled and won’t be taken up again until next year. Swalwell says he supports SB 50,

When it comes to rent control, Swalwell says he's a renter himself, but he would leave it up to each jurisdiction to decide on whether or not to adopt rent control.

Supporting impeachment

Swalwell today called on Congress to open impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

"I believe the time to act is now... I want to make sure that as we defend the rule of law, we don't forget about what it means, which is having an orderly process that's based on evidence. But yesterday, when the president invited essentially the Russians and other countries to sabotage our future elections, that was it for me," he says.

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy

Credits

Guest:
Eric Swalwell - Democratic Congressman representing eastern Alameda County

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Alexandra Sif Tryggvadottir, Rosalie Atkinson, Adriana Cargill