DOJ Expands Gun Rights for Certain Nonimmigrant Aliens

By David North on June 11, 2012

The Department of Justice has used its power to define legal terminology to give a large class of nonimmigrant aliens gun rights that they did not have previously.

Whether intended to be one or not, it is simultaneously a victory for the more-guns people and the more-migration people, an interesting (and to me, depressing) two-fer.

Back in 1999, Congress passed appropriations legislation "prohibiting, with certain exceptions, the sale or disposition of firearms or ammunition to, and the possession, shipment, transportation, or receipt of firearms or ammunition by, nonimmigrant aliens."

That is a quotation from a June 7 Federal Register announcement made by DOJ's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm, and Explosives, as printed in Immigration Daily.

The congressional exceptions were for diplomats and law enforcement officers from friendly nations.

Offhand, that legislation sounds like a good idea, a way of keeping firearms away from, among others, nonimmigrant terrorists.

But DOJ has had second thoughts and announced the other day that nonimmigrant aliens, who do not require visas, are not covered by this prohibition.

In other words, the masses of people from relatively prosperous countries that come here under the visa waiver program and many Canadians are not to be covered by the 1999 rules.

Fortunately, most of the visa waiver countries, and certainly Canada, have much tougher gun control laws than we do, so that may blunt the ill effects of the administration's ruling. On the other hand, certain non-visa-bearing aliens may come to the United States specifically to buy the guns that they cannot obtain in their home countries.

The DOJ decision is another one of those rulings that expands the rights of various kinds of aliens. It is just like the recent set of regulations changing the definitions of "21st birthday" and "foreign student" to grant some aliens rights that they would not have had were the usual definitions of those terms to be preserved, as noted in a recent blog.

The administration does not always have to look to Congress to change a law. It can, within some limits, achieve its goals by using the government's power to manipulate the dictionary.