Democratic Lawmakers Don't Want to Know When Illegal Aliens Buy Guns

Republicans slip an amendment into a House bill requiring ICE notification

By Dan Cadman on March 11, 2019

I've often spoken of the topsy-turvy world of immigration politics, where it's sometimes like looking at a black-and-white photo negative: Everything shows up in reverse. Here's a case in point that involves Republicans offering a gun control measure, and Democrats overwhelmingly voting against it.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives recently passed a gun control bill, H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which would establish new requirements for background checks of individuals who purchase, or are given, weapons from other private parties. Although a variety of amendments were introduced and accepted that would carve out certain common-sense exceptions, such as a gift hunting rifle from father to son, or inheritances, in my personal opinion it's still not really a good bill because the only people ever likely to obey such a law are the law-abiding. How do you make criminals subject themselves to background checks to obtain weapons if they know that they aren't going to pass them?

Seeking to instill a little balance into the bill, Rep. W. Gregory Steube (R-Fla.) introduced an amendment, the focus of which is easy to understand: It requires that whenever any gun purchase is imminent — whether between private parties, or individuals and licensed firearms dealers, or whomever — a comparison of data is made between the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database of immigration violators. When there is a match indicating that an alien illegally in the country is attempting to buy a firearm, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would be notified so that the attempted purchaser could be apprehended and prosecuted and/or removed.

Ironically, as Steube notes, the amendment was based on language introduced by two House Democrats, Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who is now chairman of the House Judiciary Committee — yet both of them voted against Steube's amendment.

In fact, the amendment failed when the majority Democrats voted against it, even though the premise of these bills is easy enough to comprehend, and certainly logical. It's already against the law for illegal aliens to purchase or possess firearms (see 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(g)) so all that the amendment would have done is require the marriage of existing electronic systems to protect the public and prevent the sale of guns to aliens who, in addition to being illegally in the United States, might also be gang members, or drug or weapons traffickers who simply have no prior arrest records, by promptly enabling their identification and apprehension.

This seems like exactly the kind of amendment that both sides of the gun control debate could get behind, right? Well, maybe not.

It appears that Democrats, who generally know no boundaries where gun control proposals are concerned, suddenly become cautious about the idea of a government background check that proves itself effective where aliens, even illegal aliens, are concerned. Curious.

Even more astounding, socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whom I have described before as disturbingly inconsistent in her political philosophies (see, e.g., here), fired off a series of intemperate tweets disparaging those Democrats who supported the measure, arguing that it would "expand" ICE powers. Given existing law, that is patently untrue. All it does is provide a common-sense technological solution to ensuring that those who have no business possessing guns don't get them.

Of course, Ocasio-Cortez advocates abolition of ICE. One would think that if she can't accomplish that — and it's unlikely to happen — she would at least like to see some of the agency's efforts and productive work hours put toward eliminating criminal possession of guns in our communities. But no. Her moral boundaries, whatever they may be, don't extend that far.

Now here's the rest of the story: Despite rejection of the amendment, for once Republicans exercised a certain cleverness and used House rules to achieve a victory, however modest. By means of an obscure rule called a "motion to recommit", which permits last-minute introduction of floor amendments by the minority party, Republicans once again slipped in the measure to alert ICE of illegal aliens attempting to buy guns. A few Democrats voted in favor, perhaps concerned with how their constituents might view a "no" vote, and so the amendment survived and passed along with the bill.

The reaction of House Democratic leaders upon finding that they had been neatly sidestepped? They are now considering whether they should amend the rules to eliminate motions to recommit.

What does this bill tell us about Democrats generally? Among other things that their opposition to such a common-sense plan puts the lie to their claim that border security and immigration control can be accomplished solely using "smart technology". How could this possibly be true when they are so inconstant in their approach to public safety that they can't get behind existing technology to keep guns solely in the hands of those legally entitled to possess them, and out of the hands of violence-prone illegal aliens seeking to purchase them?