(CNSNews.com) - Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) is making gun control the main issue of his newly launched presidential campaign. On Sunday, he told CNN's "State of the Union" that under his plan, the owners of semiautomatic "assault weapons" would face criminal prosecution for refusing to surrender them.
CNN's Jake Tapper pointed to something that Swalwell wrote last year: "We should ban possession of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons. We should buy back such weapons from all who choose to abide by the law. And we should criminally prosecute any who choose to defy it by keeping their weapons."
Tapper asked Swalwell, "What's the punishment for people who don't hand in their guns? Do they go to jail?"
"Well, Jake, they would," Swalwell replied:
But I also offer an alternative, which would be to keep them at a hunting club or a shooting range.
And the reason I have proposed this is because these weapons are so devastating. I have seen this as a prosecutor in the cases that I have prosecuted. We have seen these in the school shootings, from Sandy Hook to Parkland. And I was just at Parkland earlier this week doing a town hall there.
But it's not just the violence that they have caused. It's the fear, the immeasurable fear, that our children live in, because they are still on our streets. I want to get rid of that fear. I want to do what Australia did and New Zealand just recently did. I think this issue just needs some bold leadership to do it.
Tapper noted that the "vast majority" of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who use their weapons safely.
Tapper also noted that Republicans tend to "attack" Democrats for wanting to take away your guns. "Isn't it fair to say you actually do want to take away people's guns?" Tapper asked Swalwell.
"You know, keep your pistols, keep your long rifles, keep your shotguns," Swalwell responded. "I want the most dangerous weapons, these weapons of war, out of the hands of the most dangerous people. But when it comes to what else we can do, because I don't even suggest this is all we can do, I also want background checks.
"So do 73 percent of NRA members. I want to invest in gang violence prevention programs, especially in our cities. I want more community-oriented policing. My brother is a Sheriff's Athletic League police officer. He works in tough neighborhoods and helps them get kids out of the streets and into sports.
“There's a lot that we could do on this issue, but unless it's the number one issue for a president, it's just going to be one that we respond to shooting to shooting. I want to lead on it,” Swalwell said.
Swalwell said he doesn't want to repeal the Second Amendment.
"But I think the greatest threat to the Second Amendment is doing nothing. And the Second Amendment is not an absolute right. Just like free speech, you can't shout fire in a theater or lie about the products you are selling, you can't own a bazooka, you can't own a tank, you can't own rocket-propelled grenades.
"So we should put some limits in place. And I think the American people are with me. I'm no longer intimidated by the NRA. The moms and the kids, they're behind us on this issue. And I think it just takes leadership in Washington."