SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – Eric Swalwell is a Democratic Congressman from California and before Tuesday, many in South Florida had probably never heard his name.
But Swalwell announced his candidacy for president on Monday and he said the first place he wanted to bring his message was South Florida, the place that he says inspired him to fight for gun control after the Parkland shootings last year.
“I couldn’t think of going anywhere else,” Swalwell told the crowd at BB&T Center in Sunrise. “You inspired me.”
Swalwell told the crowd that his main focus is ending gun violence.
“My pledge to you tonight, this issue comes first,” he said. “Until it comes first, we’re not going to end gun violence.”
On Monday night Swalwell announced his candidacy for the presidency of the Untied States on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and a day later he was in Sunrise at the BB&T Center pitching his plans to make universal background checks the law of the land, increase mental health spending and ban and buy back assault weapons to get them off the streets.
“Keep your rifles, keep your pistols, keep your shotguns but I believe that we can ban and buy back the 15 million assault weapons in our country,” he said.
In his plan, Swalwell said he wants to give each assault weapons owner $1-thousand dollars for their weapon.
If someone doesn’t want to sell their weapon, Swalwell said he would restrict the guns to gun ranges and hunting lodges.
He said in his view, an assault weapon is different than a pistol. He said that if elected, no guns would be taken by the government.
The message of ending gun violence resonated with the crowd filled with gun violence survivors, members of gun control groups like Moms Demand Action and families of the Parkland victims like Fred Guttenberg.
“You just catapulted gun safety into the forefront of the presidential election,” Guttenberg told Swalwell. “Thank you.”
Parkland parents like Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was murdered, said she’s pleased a candidate is making gun safety a primary focus. She also said that overall elected leaders need to do more to keep our children safe.
“Talk is talk but action is action,” Alhadeff said. “I’m tired after every school shooting the president says thoughts and prayers. I’m sorry that’s not good enough. We need to do more. We need to put money behind school safety.”
Debbie Hixon, whose husband Chris was murdered, said this is about safety, not politics.
“It isn’t about what party you’re in or the Second Amendment,” Hixon said. “It’s really about making our society where we can talk to each other again.”